Ivan Cooper was man ahead of his time, mourners told

Men carry Ivan Cooper's coffin into St Peter's Church
Image caption Ivan Cooper was a towering figure in Northern Ireland history, said Archdeacon Robert Millar

One of Northern Ireland's best-known civil rights leaders Ivan Cooper was a "man ahead of his time", mourners at his funeral have been told.

He was one of the leaders of the civil rights march in Londonderry in 1972 that ended in 13 people being shot dead on Bloody Sunday.

Irish President Michael D Higgins and Pat Hume, wife of John Hume, attended his funeral service at St Peter's Church in Culmore, Derry.

He died on Wednesday, aged 75.

Mr Cooper's daughter Sinéad said she hoped her father would be remembered "as someone who always believed we should move forward".

"What I will miss most of all is my dad's amazing insight," she said.

"He had a brilliant, practical mind and I always trusted his judgement."

Image caption Irish President Michael D Higgins signed the book of condolences outside St Peter's Church

Mr Cooper was a founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and played a major role in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association.

He was born into a working-class Protestant and unionist family in Killaloo, County Londonderry, in January 1944.

Speaking after the service, President Higgins said it was a "privilege to attend the funeral and pay tribute" to Mr Cooper.

"Until his very last breath, Ivan believed in taking hope and turning it into something positive," he added.

'Towering figure in NI's history'

In his funeral address, Archdeacon Robert Millar said Mr Cooper "wanted a future better than the past".

"He challenged all of us, whatever part of the community we came from and whatever our position in society," said Archdeacon Millar.

Mr Cooper was briefly involved in unionist politics before later becoming involved with the civil rights movement and with constitutional nationalism.

Image caption Ivan Cooper was buried at Altnagelvin Cemetery in Derry after the funeral service

Archdeacon Millar said he was "a towering figure in Northern Ireland's recent history".

"He was regarded as a controversial figure, even divisive in some people's eyes.

"That didn't stop him - he believed that he had right on his side."

Archdeacon Millar finished his address by appealing to politicians to "make Ivan's vision a reality".

"The best thing all of us can do is finish the job that Ivan Cooper dedicated most of his life to: the task of building a better community."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said it was a "very sad day for the city and the SDLP family".

"It's a day to remember Ivan's legacy - he was born to break the mould," he added.

Veteran SDLP politicians Bríd Rodgers and Alasdair McDonnell and family members of those killed and injured on Bloody Sunday were among those who attended the funeral service.

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