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Camden New Journal - OBITUARY
Published: 23 October 2008

Irene Bruegel
Goodnight Irene, friends’ farewell to a ‘great campaigner’

WHEN she was not fighting for women’s rights or against the treatment of Palestinians, Highgate activist Irene Bruegel could be found relaxing by her beloved ladies’ pond at Hampstead Heath.
More than 250 mourners packed a moving secular service at Golders Green crematorium last week to pay tribute to Irene, who died early this month following a long illness. She was 62.
The service ended with the playing of American folk song Goodnight Irene for the woman described as one of Britain’s most dedicated campaigners.
Irene was founder and secretary of the influential Jews for Justice for Palestinians, a British-led international organisation.
The service was attended by Islington North Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn and dozens of political and academic colleagues.
Daughter Jo described how her mother would leave messages with her bemused student flatmates urging her to visit a Zimbabwean refugee in a British prison.
She said: “By the time I had unpicked that particular story she had already got him out. That was my mum.”
Irene’s partner for 36 years, Richard Kuper, described how, following a generation supporting Labour, she left the party, hugely disappointed after the invasion of Iraq.
She regularly flew to the West Bank as part of her political work.
He said: “She was a friend of the Hope Flowers Peace School in Bethlehem, where they held an assembly devoted to her memory. In her latter years she was very involved in Green politics. She was very proud to have Green councillors in her ward and voted for them.”
More recently she was concerned with the maltreatment of Britain’s asylum seekers.
Richard said: “Her parents were German Jewish refugees so she felt very passionate about the way they were treated. One of her last acts was to go to Heathrow airport earlier this year for the Climate Change camp and demonstration.”
To unwind, Irene would sit beside the ladies’ pond. Richard added: “She’d swum there since she was a kid. It was in her blood. She was also active in the campaign to keep the pond free.”
Mr Corbyn described Irene as a dogged activist. He added: “She was a friend for many years and a great campaigner. She proved that activists can be listened to and do achieve success.”
Irene’s career spanned education, policy research and local government. She was reader in urban policy at South Bank University, becoming a professor in 2000. After her retirement in December 2006, she taught an evening course at Birkbeck College.
She is survived by Richard and four children, including two stepchildren – Dan, Jo, Martin and David – and two grandchildren, Natalie and Alexander.

* THE family have named two charities for donations: the British Shalom-Salaam Trust and the Hackney Migrant Centre.

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