A Coleraine church overflowed with mourners yesterday at the funeral of DUP founding father, Alderman James McClure.
He was party chairman of the DUP for 25 years and more recently became party president.
First elected as a councillor in 1977, he only stood down from Coleraine Council this year at 88 years of age.
Having passed away in hospital on Sunday after illness, he is survived by his wife Bella and children Ian, Robert, Jennifer and Frances, having outlived another son William and daughter Valerie.
The funeral cortege yesterday left his home on Bushmills Road after 1.15pm for the church service at 2pm.
Mourners at his funeral at Coleraine Free Presbyterian Church included First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson, and DUP MPs Ian Paisley Jr, Gregory Campbell and Sammy Wilson, along with many other councillors from the town.
The church building could not contain all those who came to pay their respects, with the church hall also well filled during the service.
Rev Roger Higginson held up Mr McClure’s life to mourners as an example of Christian faith in many situations such as “when we are weighed down with sin, facing troubles and trials, feeling weary in service or are weakened by sickness”.
He told the News Letter: “There was a time in James’ life when he recognised he was a sinner and needed the forgiveness from the Lord.
“When there were trials and troubles which came along he always had his faith in Christ to rely upon.
“James served his family, community and his God for many years.
“Sometime we can become weary in service but James’s faith gave him the strength to persevere – he was 88 when he stepped down as an alderman this year.”
His faith also sustained him when his health began to pose problems, he said.
“Sickness is no respecter of persons and James had been in and out of hospital over the past six years I have known him.”
Rev Higginson added that separation from loved ones, as experienced now by the McClure family, would some day be overcome with “a great reunion with Christ”.
He noted that the former DUP president had been mayor of Coleraine twice, deputy mayor 11 times and was awarded the MBE in 2005.
Mr McClure’s son Ian also paid tribute to his father during the service, commending him for his length of service on the council, his role as a father and the example he set in terms of honesty, sincerity and integrity.
Earlier in the week DUP leader Peter Robinson described him as “a genuine friend of the party” while North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jr said that the party stalwart had been “more than a party colleague – he was a dear friend” and was “one of my father’s most trusted and closest friends”.