Barney Fitzpatrick ‘a quick wit and a peace maker’

Barney Fitzpatrick served almost 38 years in the RUC and PSNI before becoming a local councillor
Barney Fitzpatrick served almost 38 years in the RUC and PSNI before becoming a local councillor

The funeral of former police chief superintendent Barney Fitzpatrick, one of the first officers to be shot by the IRA during the Troubles, has taken place in his home town of Portstewart.

Having served almost 38 years in both the RUC and PSNI, the dedicated public servant was first elected to the old Coleraine council in 2006 and then re-elected to the current Causeway Coast and Glens Council as an Alliance representative.

At his funeral service in St Mary’s Star of the Sea church, mourners heard Mr Fitzpatrick, who died peacefully at the Causeway Hospital on Saturday, described as a “quick wit” with a gift for defusing situations and bringing people together.

Parish priest Fr Austin McGirr said: “He always worked for and longed for politics which worked for people.

“The family could have chosen many scripture passages for the requiem mass, including Matthew 5 – ‘blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice for they shall be satisfied ... their reward will be great in heaven.’ His humour and quick wit defused situations and brought everyone together.”

Fr McGirr added: “He always wanted to join the police and in 1967 joined the Lanarkshire constabulary. He transferred to the RUC in 1969. In 1971 he survived a gun attack [in north Belfast] when two of his colleagues sadly lost their lives.

“He served in Belfast and was a sergeant in the ‘bomb transit unit’ for two years until he was promoted to inspector and transferred to Coleraine.”

As news of Mr Fitzpatrick’s death broke, PSNI assistant chief constable Stephen Martin tweeted: “I had the pleasure of knowing Barney during his distinguished police career.

“He was a man who thrived on public service & was fiercely loyal to his principles. He was a significant influence to me & many colleagues. A one off who will be greatly missed. My sympathy to his family.”

Alliance leader Naomi Long said her party colleague maintained his commitment to public service even as his health deteriorated.

“Barney served the local community all his life, first as a police officer and latterly as a local councillor. Even over recent months in failing health, he continued to faithfully and diligently undertake his public duties at the council,” she said.

“He was a man of deep religious faith, who believed passionately in reconciliation and in healing the divisions in our community.

“Always gracious and generous in his dealings with others, he will be greatly missed by us all in the Alliance Party,” Mrs Long added.

Mr Fitzpatrick is survived by his wife Teresa, children Una, Sean, Brendan and Fiona and four grandchildren.