15 May 2008 Edition
Death of Ivan Barr
Sinn Féin councillor and former chairperson of the Civil Rights Association
REPUBLICANS throughout Ireland and further afield have been shocked and saddened at the death on Friday, 9 May, of veteran republican Ivan Barr.
Ivan, a Sinn Féin councillor of many years standing, passed away at his home in Strabane, County Tyrone.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP expressed his “deep sense of shock” on hearing the news.
On behalf of Sinn Féin, Adams extended his sincerest condolence to Ivan’s wife, Judy; his sons and daughters, Jeffery, Judith, Ivan, Ann Marie, Liam, Dean, and Seán; his brothers, Charlie, Tommy and Raymond; his sisters Wilma and Finwell and his grandchildren; and his wider family circle.
Gerry Adams said:
“Ivan was a strong and deeply committed republican. Over four decades of activism he was at the forefront of republican politics.
“Ivan was a former chairperson of the Civil Rights Association. As a Sinn Féin councillor he was an effective public representative. He championed major reform of Strabane Council, stood up for the rights of Strabane citizens, and was a stalwart of the republican struggle.
“His loss will be deeply felt by his family but Strabane has also lost a great leader.”
West Tyrone MP and Sinn Féin Vice-President Pat Doherty MP said the deep personal loss felt by Ivan Barr’s immediate family “is shared by so many people, such was the esteem in which Ivan was held not only in his beloved Strabane but far beyond; not only amongst republicans but right across the political spectrum”.
Pat Doherty continued:
“Ivan’s republican activism spanned more than four decades from the Civil Rights era right up until he passed away. Throughout, he remained constant in his commitment to the republican ideals of Tone and Connolly, whether it was standing up to oppression and discrimination, fighting the corner of the least-well-off in our community, making a stand against any form of sectarianism, racism or homophobia, or championing the cause of Strabane on every social and economic issue. Ivan’s commitment to these ideals always shone through.”
The West Tyrone MP described Ivan as a man of deep integrity who will be sorely missed, not least by his loving family.
“Sinn Féin has lost an esteemed comrade and friend and the people of Strabane have lost an outstanding public representative.”
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún said:
“Ivan was a working-class hero. He worked tirelessly campaigning and working for equality and justice for over 40 years and was an example to all.
“I send my sincere condolences to his wife, Judy, his children and grandchildren.
“Ar dheis láimh Dé go raibh a anam.”
Strabane bids final farewell to Ivan Barr
UPWARDS on 2,000 people attended the funeral of veteran Sinn Féin Councillor Ivan Barr in Strabane on Monday, 12 May.
The national flag and the Starry Plough draped the coffin bearing Ivan Barr’s remains as they left the family home at Bridge Street just after 9am.
The cortege, led by a lone piper and flanked by council colleagues, began the journey as family members carried the coffin along Bridge Street before Sinn Féin pallbearers, including the local MP, Pat Doherty, Martin McGuinness MP and local party councillors carried it on to the junction of Melmount Road.
It was testament to the massive respect held for Ivan Barr in his local community and a practical expression of the inclusive society he espoused all his life that teams of pallbearers representing local GAA clubs, community groups, the Irish-language community, old comrades, and representatives from all shades of political belief and opinion took turns carrying the coffin the length of the Melmount Road, where family members once again took over for the short remaining journey to Melmount Chapel.
The chapel was packed to overflowing as local priest Fr Pat O’Hagan celebrated Requiem Mass.
In what was a very emotional ceremony, some of Ivan’s children and grandchildren participated in readings and fitting offerings. Moving tributes were also paid at the end of the ceremony in an address from the altar by Strabane District Council Chief Executive Philip Faithful and in a poem by Ivan’s brother Raymond.
The cortege then made the final journey to Melmount Cemetery, where the burial ceremony took place.
On presenting the national and Starry Plough flags to the Barr family, Councillor Jarlath McNulty then introduced Ivan’s lifelong friend and comrade, Liam McElhinney, to deliver the oration.
Liam said that Ivan was a republican but most of all a socialist who dedicated his life to improving the lot of the working man and woman and who gave practical expression to the ideals of Tone, Mellows and Connolly in his every action.
He recounted their early days growing up together in the Foot of the Town and told how life changed for both of them forever in 1968 when Ivan, as chairperson of the local Civil Rights Association, and Liam as Secretary, launched themselves into organising an endless series of activities such as protests, marches, and ballots before Ivan went on to become Six-County chairperson of the Civil Rights Association.
He said at the time both were also members of the Republican Movement and it was the understanding that without national sovereignty there could be no true social justice. It was the organisational seeds sown in those early years which have been the foundations of the political strength of Sinn Féin today, he said.
ENERGY AND SKILLS
Liam said that, despite travelling different paths for a time, they remained constant friends and that when the 1981 Hunger Strikes came Ivan could not accept any party that would not stand up for the just demands of the Hunger Strikers and once again brought his massive energy and unique skills to the benefit the Republican Movement.
In 1985, Ivan felt that the time was right to take on the role of public leadership again and was first elected to the local council that year and at every subsequent election.
Liam went on to recount the conversation he had with Ivan at Altnagelvin hospital a fortnight previously, when the conversation invariably turned to politics. He said that they talked about having set out on this journey together and would want to finish it together by realising the objective of a 32-county sovereign and democratic republic. He concluded by saying that, alas, Ivan has now gone but hopefully this journey will be realised.
In a final tribute, republican ex-prisoner Terry Boyle gave a powerful and moving rendition of The Ballad of Joe Hill.
Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.