Ivan Cooper 1944-2019: We need more of his type

Ivan Cooper 1944-2019: We need more of his type
Ivan Cooper. Picture: PA.

Social injustice is injustice no matter from which side of a political or religious divide your opinions are formed. Thus it was that during darkest days of the South African apartheid regime that some of the doughtiest campaigners for freedom and civil rights were drawn from the white liberal and left-wing communities.

Churchgoers and politicians joined the ranks of the oppressed blacks on the Selma to Montgomery march as they processed along the Edmund Pettus Bridge. And in the North there are stirring examples of Protestants who recognised the treatment of Catholics, understood that within it lay the seeds of perpetual conflict, and resolved to aid the cause of reform.

One such role model was the veteran campaigner Ivan Cooper who died yesterday in hospital at the age of 75. Mr Cooper witnessed the baton charges upon the Duke St march in 1968, a housing protest which is often said to mark the commencement of the Troubles, and became a relentless advocate for the right to a home, and to employment and to vote.

He was, perhaps because of his working-class background, quick to recognise that the divides in his communities were often caused by politics and social position more than religion. Those killed in Bloody Sunday were people who “had nothing” said the man who was praised this week as “a mould breaker”. Such types are rare enough. We need more.

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