The son of an MLA who died suddenly said yesterday that it seemed that the town his father loved had turned out to pay its respects.
Alan McClarty was paying tribute at the funeral of his father, Independent MLA David, who died on Friday.
“Dad loved Coleraine but it seems that today Coleraine loves dad just as much,” Alan said to the 1,200 mourners yesterday, when some three times as many people turned up as could have fitted into Killowen Parish Church.
Politicians from across the community attended, with Mr McClarty having widely been described as “a gentleman” since his death on Friday.
Rev Donard Collins, who conducted yesterday’s service, said the MLA’s son, Alan, gave “a very emotional and powerful tribute” on behalf of his family, about the joy of knowing his father.
“The church, which seats 400, was packed, with the service also piped to the church hall, which was also overflowing. Many others were standing outside,” said Rev Collins.
He told mourners that David had an amazing breadth of life which engaged so many people, having served his community in politics and amateur dramatics.
His wife Norma and sons Alan and Colin also enjoyed acting as members of Ballywillan players in Portrush.
“Actors, dramatists, politicians, the great and the good, educationalists, sports people and most of all the people he grew up among and knew so dearly all turned out to pay their respects,” said Rev Collins.
“David loved the political sphere, the debate and discussion much in preference to division and duplicity. He managed to be a man in Christ on and off the podium – there was no actor here.
“In Coleraine and Killowen we all counted him as ‘our David’. He loved the community in which he grew up and they in turn, by their coming to his farewell, some 1,200 people showed they loved him too.”
David had been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in March 2013, and underwent many treatments.
“But he had a very deep inner faith. He came home late after treatment one night recently and told me he was very aware of the presence of the Lord. “He told me: ‘I am not afraid of when, not if, death comes; I am at peace and ready – totally accepting when the Lord shall call’.”
The minister said yesterday that after the final votes, the final curtain and the final laughter, “David would have known that to be with Christ would be far better; you may be influential or think yourself a nobody; but in the Lord’s view are we ready as we trust David was?”
Respected as ‘a gentleman’ across political spectrum
Politicians from across the political divide paid their last respects to “gentleman” and Independent MLA David McClarty at his funeral yesterday.
The 63-year-old father-of-two spent most of his political life in the UUP before leaving after the party deselected him in 2011. He then stood as an Independent, topping the polls. He was one of the Assembly’s deputy speakers from 2007 to 2011.
His funeral took place yesterday at Killowen Parish Church, Coleraine, where he was a long-time member. East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell attended on behalf of the DUP, with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness representing Sinn Fein.
Also attending were UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, former UUP MP Willie Ross, TUV leader Jim Allister, former UUP leader Lord Empey, SDLP MLA John Dallat, as well as Justice Minister and Alliance Party leader David Ford. The final blessing at the funeral service yesterday was given by Bishop Ken Good.
Mr McGuinness said yesterday on Twitter: “Honoured to attend Killowen Parish Church, Coleraine today for Independent Unionist MLA David McClarty’s funeral service - #Gentleman.”
Despite having firm political convictions, Mr McClarty managed to convey them in terms which were rarely confrontational.
The office bearers and members of Coleraine UUP released a statement yesterday saying they were “deeply saddened” at his untimely death.
“David was a man of the people; highly respected by all sections of the community,” they said. “In his service to citizens he took a holistic view and held the respect of many. His ability to bring humour into situations often diffused conflict. He will be sadly missed as an ambassador for Coleraine.”