ALLIANCE Leader David Ford MLA has paid tribute to founding Party member Bob Cooper, who died at his Holywood home last night aged 68.
Mr Ford said:
“Bob Cooper played an enormous role in public life. Following a period in the UUP, Bob was one of the founding members of the Alliance Party. He worked tirelessly for the Party to ensure that it became firmly established as part of the political scene in Northern Ireland.
“After serving as Minister of Manpower Services in the 1973 Assembly he was appointed as the first head of the Fair Employment Agency. Bob worked under enormous personal pressure to ensure jobs in Northern Ireland were allocated on merit and he laid the foundations for the work being carried out by the Equality Commission.
“He also played a major role in the promotion of integrated education as Chair of the Integrated Education Fund.
“His particular interests spanned education and employment, but in every aspect of his life, Bob Cooper worked to promote partnership and reconciliation and to make Northern Ireland a better place for all its citizens, and I extend my sympathy to his wife and family.”
Brief biographical details:
Bob, later Sir Robert, Cooper was born in Co Donegal and was the first Joint Political Chairman of the Alliance Party with Sir Oliver Napier.
He was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1973 as a member for West Belfast. Afterwards, he was elected as Alliance’s Deputy Leader, a position he held until 1976.
He was appointed Chairman of the Fair Employment Agency in 1976, and also chaired its successor, the Fair Employment Commission, from 1990-99.
Sir Robert was given an honorary degree by Queen’s University, Belfast, where he studied law, and also received a CBE. In 1998, he received a knighthood for his services to equal opportunities.