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Strabane bids a final farewell to Ivan Barr

12 May, 2008

Upwards of 2000 people attended the funeral of veteran Sinn Féin Cllr Ivan Barr in Strabane this morning. The National Flag and Starry Plough draped the coffin bearing Ivan Barr's remains 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 Fein pall bearers including the local MP Pat Doherty, Martin Mc Guinness MP and local party councillors carried the coffin 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 pall bearers 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 at which 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 alter 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, Cllr Jarlath Mc Nulty then introduced Ivan's lifelong friend and comrade Liam Mc Elhinney 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 Chair of the local Civil Rights Association and Liam as Secretary launched themselves into organizing 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 and it was the organisational seeds sown in those early years which has been the foundations of the political strength of Sinn Fein today.

He 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. He said that 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 ago 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 realizing 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.

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