Ivan Cooper


Ivan Cooper

Ivan Averill Cooper (born 1944) is a former politician from Northern Ireland who was a Member of Parliament of Northern Ireland, and founding member of the SDLP. He is best known for leading an anti-internment march which ended up in the Bloody Sunday incident on the 30th of January 1972, in Derry, Northern Ireland.

Early years

Cooper was born to a working class Protestant family in Killaloo, County Londonderry, and later moved to the "Bogside" area of Derry City. He was briefly a member of the Claudy Young Unionist Association until April 1965 when he joined the Northern Ireland Labour Party. As the Labour candidate in the Stormont general election that year, he attracted a moderate amount of cross-community support, despite not being elected. [cite book |last=Bardon |first=Jonathan |authorlink=Jonathan Bardon |title=A History of Ulster |origyear=1992 |origmonth=November |year=1992 |month=December |publisher=Blackstaff Press |location=Dundonald, Belfast |isbn=0-85640-476-4 |pages=pp. 648 |chapter=The O'Neill Era, 1963-1972 ] Committed to non-violence, he became a major figure in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association which campaigned for Catholic equality during the late 1960s. This was unusual, given that Cooper was a Protestant. Fact|date=July 2007 In 1968 Cooper resigned from the Labour Party and founded the Derry Citizens' Action Committee. [cite book |last=Bew |first=Paul |authorlink=Paul Bew, Baron Bew |coauthors=Gordon Gillespie |title=Northern Ireland : A Chronology of the Troubles, 1968-1993 |origyear=1993 |publisher= Gill & MacMillan |location= Dublin |isbn= 0-7171-2081-3 |pages=pp. 6 |chapter=1968 ] In the summer of that year, at a protest meeting in the Guildhall foyer, he suggested that Catholics and Protestants alike should fight for their rights "as the Blacks in America were fighting". [cite book |last=Bardon |first=Jonathan |authorlink=Jonathan Bardon |title=A History of Ulster |origyear=1992 |origmonth=November |year=1992 |month=December |publisher=Blackstaff Press |location=Dundonald, Belfast |isbn=0-85640-476-4 |pages=pp. 650 |chapter=The O'Neill Era, 1963-1972 ]

Attempting to rise above sectarian politics, he remained hopeful that Catholics would receive Civil Rights under the state of Northern Ireland. He hoped that both Catholics and Protestants could work together, particularly the working classes of both groups, whom he believed shared the same greater interests. He was, however, an nationalist, therefore many Protestants viewed him as a traitor.cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/1791090.stm |title=Bloody Sunday leader finds faith in film |accessdate=2007-07-05 |date=2002-01-30 |publisher=BBC ]

Civil rights campaign

Cooper continued his activities with civil rights campaigning, ignoring a month-long ban imposed on marches in Derry in November 1968, organising a march two days later with the DCAC in which up to 15,000 people took part. Following violence resulting from numerous illegal marches in the city, Cooper called for a halt to spontaneous marches. [cite book |last=Bew |first=Paul |authorlink=Paul Bew, Baron Bew |coauthors=Gordon Gillespie |title=Northern Ireland : A Chronology of the Troubles, 1968-1993 |origyear=1993 |publisher= Gill & MacMillan |location= Dublin |isbn= 0-7171-2081-3 |pages=pp. 7 |chapter=1968 ] After escalation of street disturbances at the start of the year, following a march by the People's Democracy, which resulted in residents of the Bogside cordoning off areas with impromptu barricades, Cooper managed to persuade locals to remove the barricades. The damage seemed irreparable however, after a march in Newry went out of control. Most Protestants and many Catholics who had still remained in support of the civil rights actions now withdrew their support. [cite book |last=Bardon |first=Jonathan |authorlink=Jonathan Bardon |title=A History of Ulster |origyear=1992 |origmonth=November |year=1992 |month=December |publisher=Blackstaff Press |location=Dundonald, Belfast |isbn=0-85640-476-4 |pages=pp. 662 |chapter=The O'Neill Era, 1963-1972 ]

Parliament

In the 1969 general election, Cooper was elected as an independent Member of the Parliament of Northern Ireland for Mid Londonderry, defeating the sitting Nationalist Party MP, Paddy Gormley.

The Civil Rights movement was growing increasingly frustrated, especially in the face of state oppression. On the 12th of March - the start of the few intense days of violence which have become known as the Battle of the Bogside - Catholics protesting the anti-Catholic Apprentice Boys of Derry parade in the city. Cooper saw violence emerging, and attempted to restrain the crowd by linking arms with John Hume and Eddie McAteer. They were swept aside however and Cooper was knocked unconscious by a brick. ["Ibid pp. 666"]

Cooper was suspended from Stormont for a week on the 20th of March after a protest in the Chamber over a Public Order Bill. [cite book |last=Bew |first=Paul |authorlink=Paul Bew, Baron Bew |coauthors=Gordon Gillespie |title=Northern Ireland : A Chronology of the Troubles, 1968-1993 |origyear=1993 |publisher= Gill & MacMillan |location= Dublin |isbn= 0-7171-2081-3 |pages=pp. 14 |chapter=1968 ]

DLP

On the 21st of August 1970 Cooper co-founded the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) with Hume, Paddy Devlin and Gerry Fitt. [cite book |last=Bardon |first=Jonathan |authorlink=Jonathan Bardon |title=A History of Ulster |origyear=1992 |origmonth=November |year=1992 |month=December |publisher=Blackstaff Press |location=Dundonald, Belfast |isbn=0-85640-476-4 |pages=pp. 679 |chapter=The O'Neill Era, 1963-1972 ] [cite web |url=http://www.election.demon.co.uk/stormont/biographies.html |title=Biographies of Members of the Northern Ireland House of Commons |accessdate=2007-07-05 |last=Boothroyd |first=David |authorlink=David Boothroyd ]

Cooper organised a civil rights and anti-internment march for the 30th of January 1972 which was to develop into Bloody Sunday, whereupon fourteen unarmed civilians were killed by British soldiers in a division of the Parachute Regiment on duty in Derry.

After the prorogation of the Stormont Parliament, Cooper was elected as one of the representatives of Mid Ulster to the Northern Ireland Assembly, 1973 and the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention in 1975. He was also the SDLP's candidate in the constituency in both the February 1974 and October 1974 Westminster elections. By standing in the first of these, he split the Nationalist vote and in effect ensured the defeat of independent MP Bernadette McAliskey.

In 1983 Cooper stood aside after the boundary changes for the new Foyle constituency to let colleague and friend John Hume contest the seat. The increase in levels of violence intertwined with the politics made Cooper slowly move away from politics. He is now an insolvency consultant.

Legacy

Ivan remains a massively influential and loved figure within his constituency and Northern Ireland as a whole.

At the height of his political career, Ivan Cooper commanded the largest support of any nationalist Stormont MP. A film was released in 2002, called "Bloody Sunday", in which Cooper is portrayed by actor James Nesbitt.

He is the husband of Francis Cooper, and has two daughters; Sinead and Bronagh Cooper.Fact|date=July 2007

Fianna Fáil

On 11 December 2007, Cooper called for a merger between Fianna Fáil and the SDLP.

References


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