East Belfast community worker Ian Ogle “met his end with unparalleled bravery and died protecting those he believed to be in danger”, mourners at his funeral heard.
Grieving family and friends packed into the Covenant Love Church on the Albertbridge Road this morning, while hundreds more gathered outside to pay their respects to the father-of-two, who was known to many as ‘Big O’.
The 45-year-old was stabbed in the back 11 times and suffered a fractured skull in a frenzied attack by a gang of men – possibly members of the UVF – at Cluan Place on Sunday, January 27.
His coffin, draped in a white flag, was carried past the spot where he was murdered, which is just yards from the church where his funeral service took place.
Addressing mourners, pastor Kevin Sambrook described Mr Ogle as “courageous, fearless and utterly selfless.”
“He valued the lives of those he felt the need to protect more than his own,” he said.
Pastor Sambrook spoke of how he talked with Mr Ogle and prayed with him at the corner of Cluan Place just moments before the deadly attack, which he described as “a senseless act of barbarity”.
“I found myself kneeling beside him as he lay dying, praying that the Lord would be with him,” he continued, urging people to remember Mr Ogle’s grieving family – his son Ryan who was with him when he died, daughter Toni and partner Vera.
“Ian met his end with unparalleled bravery and died protecting those he believed to be in danger without a second thought for his own safety. Ian willingly gave his life for others that night while others willingly took it from him.
“What I witnessed that night will stay with me for the rest of my life. But my strongest and most abiding memory will be not of Ian’s murderers but rather this brave and selfless man displaying supreme courage and the heart of a lion, meeting lethal danger head on, knowing he never stood a chance, but content to fill an obligation, as he saw it, to protect others. I saw a man that night fall with dignity.”
Pastor Sambrook went on to say how Mr Ogle had “moved away from his past” and had increasingly turned to God towards the end of his life, saying the Lord’s Prayer every day.
While stating that justice must be done, he appealed for no retaliation for the murder.
“There must be no revenge,” he said. “This country is littered, literally littered, with the graves of those who sought revenge, and today’s avengers soon become tomorrow’s dead.”
Pastor Sambrook concluded: “Ian’s legacy may be many things, but the greatest is that hope and trust in Jesus Christ.”
Ahead of the service, members of East Belfast Protestant Boys Flute Band lined Cluan Place and a lone piper played Abide With Me and Highland Cathedral as Mr Ogle’s remains were carried to the church.
Assistant pastor Gary Chettleburgh gave a scripture reading before tributes were paid by Mr Ogle’s daughter, Toni Johnston Ogle, and community pastor Davy Ralston, who spoke of his friend’s love of Everton, Glentoran and Rangers football clubs.
Those who attended the funeral included UUP peer Lord Empey, East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson and the Orange Order’s Rev Mervyn Gibson.
Mr Ogle was laid to rest in Roselawn Cemetery.