Crowds mourn passing of ‘his own man’ Glen Barr

Glen Barr pictured taking part in a parade to the Londonderry War Memorial by the International School for Peace Studies in 2012

Around 800 mourners have turned out to pay their respects to the man that led Ulster to a standstill but later devoted his life to reconciliation.

Leading UDA figure Glen Barr was chairman of the committee which led the Ulster Workers Strike which paralysed Northern Ireland in 1974 to bring down the Sunningdale power-sharing executive.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell (Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye.)

He was elected to the Assembly in 1973 and Northern Ireland Convention of 1976. However, he left politics in 1981 and went on to set up a job creation scheme in his native Londonderry, was a driving force behind the Waterside Theatre and was CEO of the International School for Peace Studies in the city.

He died on Monday after a short illness, prompting tributes from Sinn Fein, the SDLP, the UUP and DUP. He is survived by his wife Isa, children Jacqueline, Iain, Warren and Craig.

He grew up in Ebrington Presbyterian Church, the building itself seating up to 800 people on Friday, with further mourners outside.

Officials from the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs attended and a former pupil of a local Catholic school who had been on one of his community projects played guitar.

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said: “Generally the mood was deep sadness that some who was his own man had passed away, while there was reflection on all that he had achieved.”

Rev Paul Linkens told mourners how in his early years Glen “had a knack of making things happen” and persuaded his mother to bring home a donkey on the train from Portrush as a pet.

Initially as an engineer and union representative he “saw the working class Unionist voice being ignored and sought with his energy and determination to address the inequality” the cleric said.

In the 1970s he was inspired that the American Constitution ensured majority rule with minority rights and “set about trying to bring two distinct people together”.

In more recent times he and former TD Paddy Harte were shocked at the lack of recognition given to fallen soldiers of the Irish and Ulster Divisions when they visited Flanders.

This resulted in Irish Peace Park in Messines being unveiled in 1998 by Irish President Mary McAleese, the Queen and King Albert II of Belgium, he said. “It was a moving and memorable occasion for all involved.”

He added: “Despite his robust exterior Glen he had tender heart and a knowledge of The Gospel Message. He grasped his need of Jesus Christ.”

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