Priest warns of dangers of Covid-19 as leading Derry republican laid to rest

Funeral of Eamon 'Peggy' McCourt takes place

Special online tribute being held this evening in memory of Eamon 'Peggy' McCourt

Eamon 'Peggy' McCourt died on Saturday.

The funeral has taken place of leading Derry republican, Eamon McCourt.

Affectionately known as 'Peggy' (the name of his late mother), Mr McCourt died in Altnagelvin Hospital on Saturday after contracting Covid-19.

He was the third person from the Creggan estate to die within a week from the virus.

In 1981, Mr McCourt was wounded when members of the SAS opened fire on a car at the bottom of Southway, killing two IRA members, George McBrearty and Charles ‘Pop’ Maguire.

Speaking during the funeral service in St Mary's Church in Creggan, celebrant Fr Joe Gormley said the death of the 62-year-old had brought 'the reality' of the coronavirus to the community.

Fr Gormley added: “It is necessary we do everything we can to stop its spread. Today tells us death is not a statistic. Eamon's death has brought much pain to his family.”

Stating Mr McCourt was committed to peace and widely respected in the Creggan community, Fr Gormley recalled how he first met him when he approached him to celebrate Mass for two IRA men shot dead by British troops in the city in December 1984.

Fr Gormley said: “I first met Eamon McCourt just after I came here in the autumn of 2014. He arrived down to see me one Saturday night and asked would it be possible to have two men, Danny Doherty and Willie Fleming, remembered here at Mass on the anniversary of the 30 years since they died in the grounds of Gransha.

“I suppose Eamon might have been a little bit apprehensive meeting the new priest and how I would respond, but it soon became apparent that Eamon was not making a request out of any political point, but out of a genuine concern for the families of the two men who had died.

“His request was totally appropriate, because no matter the circumstances in which we die, we are all God's beloved sons and daughters – that's where we get our identity in Baptism.

“Sharing a cup of tea in the kitchen that evening, what struck me about Eamon was his genuine awareness about the whole human cost of the conflict he had been engaged in and which so many people in our community know all too well about.

“He began to help me to see it from a different perspective, and I began to assess that no human death was just a statistic, be it in the conflict or a condemnic. He knew the personal cost of conflict himself, he had seen friends of his die and the human cost it had on families. It was something he was acutely aware of in the years since the conflict finished.

“He was always looking out for the families involved, making sure people were not forgotten about. And I know from that conversation that night that Eamon would have prayed for the families involved in the conflict, no matter what the background, who had suffered.”

Fr Gormley added: “Eamon was someone determined to work for peace and trying to be of service to the community.

“Eamon's loss will be felt in this community because he was always a 'go to' person. If people wanted something done, they would ask Eamon and he enjoyed always wanting to help others.”

Mr McCourt's coffin, draped in a Tricolour, was flanked by members of his family dressed in white shirts and black ties, and wearing face coverings, as it was taken from his Creggan Heights home to the church where only members of the family were admitted in accordance with the Covid-19 regulations.

His coffin was again flanked as it was taken from the church for burial in the new section of the City Cemetery where a white dove of peace was released.

Leading members of Sinn Fein did not attend the funeral with the Derry branch of the party hosting a tribute event on its Facebook page and YouTube at 7.00pm tonight.

Mr McCourt is survived by Majella, his wife of 40 years, daughters Shauna, Sinead and Danielle and sons Eamonn and Ryan.

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