Thousands follow six-hour Dom Mintoff cortège
"In his life the bells were rung so that he could not be heard, and in his death, we shout Mintoff, Mintoff inside the church" - GWU Deputy General Secretary
The Labour Party and the people of Cottonera this afternoon bid a poignant farewell to former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff with a cortège which lasted six hours.
Mr Mintoff died on Monday, aged 96. He led the Labour Party for 35 years and stepped down as prime minister in 1984 after having held the helm since 1971. He was also prime minister between 1955 and 1958.
The cortège went through some of the localities which shaped Mr Mintoff, and other places which are a symbol of his political activities.
The focus of the cortège was on Cottonera - the district which returned Mr Mintoff to parliament for a record 50 years.
Among the stops were Mr Mintoff's residence in Tarxien, his home-town Cospicua and the Freedom Monument in Vittoriosa.
The cortège also went past two former Labour headquarters - the Freedom Press and the Macina, before stopping at current headquarters in Hamrun and then proceeding to the final destination, the Palace in Valletta where Mr Mintoff will lie in state tomorrow and for a few hours on Saturday morning before the state funeral.
Large crowds applauded wherever the cortège went but no political flags were displayed.
9.10 p.m. The cortege arrives in Palace Square followed by Mr Mintoff's relatives and a crowd shouting Mintoff Mintoff. Among them is Joe Camilleri, Mr Mintoff's long serving secretary. A fanfare is played by trumpters of the King's Own Band as the coffin is carried into the Palace and the doors are closed.
8.20 p.m. The cortège drives into Valletta and slowly down Republic Street to the Palace Square - the place where Dom Mintoff celebrated the attainment of the Republic status on December 13, 1974. President George Abela awaits the arrival. The cortège is escorted by Valletta's two bands. People line the street behind police barriers.
8 p.m. The coffin is lowered in front of the Labour Party headquarters. Joseph Muscat places a bouquet of 35 white roses, representing the 35 years of Mintoff's leadership of the party. He stands at the head of the coffin as soprano Claire Caruana sings an aria from the rock opera Gensna.
Yana Bland Mintoff then takes the flowers and hands Dr Muscat a Mintoff commemorative medal, which he shows to the applauding crowd.
The National Anthem is then sung by the soprano.
7.56 p.m. The band plays the International, the socialist anthem and a source of great controversy in the Labour-Church battles of the 1960s. The crowd cotninues to applaud. Some cry, many shout Mintoff.
7.40 p.m. The cortège arrives in High Street, Hamrun. Just over two years ago the same street witnessed the funeral of Guido de Marco, a Mintoff adversary and friend.
Hundreds of people are lining both sides of the street leading to Labour headquarters. The coffin is taken out of the hearse as Chopin's Funeral March is played by Hamrun's three bands. Labour leader Joseph Muscat and the party leadership are standing outside party headquarters under a huge poster showing a young Dom Mintoff studying post-war reconstruction plans. Also present are MPs and former Labour ministers. Alfred Sant is not among them.
7.40 p.m. The cortège arrives in Hamrun. Hundreds of people are lining both sides of the street leading to Labour headquarters. The coffin is taken out of the hearse as the Funeral March is played by Hamrun's three bands. Labour leader Joseph Muscat and the party leadership are standing outside party headquarters.
7.10 p.m. The cortège stops briefly opposite the Super One complex in Marsa. The staff led by chairman Jason Micallef throw flowers at the hearse. On the way to Marsa the cortège drove past former Labour Health Minister Vincent Moran, who stood outside his villa in Corradino.
6.47 p.m. The prayer service ends with the singing of the Ave Maria, as is typical in Cospicua. The band takes over as the coffin is carried out amid applause and cheering. A boy carries the Maltese flag, but no political flags have been on show. The coffin is being carried by soldiers in plain clothes circled by the police. Mintoff's final departure from his home-town is a poignant moment for the residents. As minister, Mintoff was also responsible for the post-war reconstruction of the harbour towns.
The next destination will be Marsa, where, as in the other localities, it will be greeted by the Mayor and the locality's bands.
6.35 p.m. The cortège, headed by Archpriest Fr Joe Mifsud and Fr Dionysius Mintoff OFM slowly arrives in front of the packed Collegiate Church of the Immaculate Conception in Cospicua. The bells toll a sombre tone as people applaud. Shouting of Mintoff, Mintoff, inside the church drowns out a choir as the coffin is placed in front of the altar. Prayers are said. Michael Parnis, GWU deputy general secretary, sums up the irony on facebook, saying: In his life the bells were rung so that he could not be heard and in his death, we shout Mintoff, Mintoff inside the church. He was referring to an episode in the 1960s when the bells of a church in Victoria, Gozo, were rung to disrupt a Labour mass meeting.
6.05 p.m. The coffin is taken out of the hearse and carried past St George's Band Club, which Mr Mintoff headed for decades. The coffin is draped with the band's flag.The band plays funeral marches as people throw flowers and struggle for vantage points.
5.55 p.m. Right on cue, the cortège arrives in Cospicua. Many people have been waiting for over an hour. Two faint and are given first aid. There is shouting of Mintoff, Mintoff as the hearse is driven opposite the Labour Party Club.
5.35 p.m. Cortège leaves Vittoriosa through the recently built gate at the top of Maingate Street as the band plays its last salute. It will head for Kalkara and then Cospicua, Mr Mintoff's home crowd, where a very large crowd is waiting. The Cottonera district was Mintoff's stronghold and returned him to parliament for 50 years.
5.10 p.m. The cortège arrives in Victory Square, Vittoriosa, to a fanfare by trumpeters of Prince of Wales Own Band and shouting of Viva s-Salvatur ta' Malta. The band accompanies the cortège along the streets of the ancient city. The streets are decorated for the feast of St Dominic this weekend, but the Saturday morning march has been cancelled as a sign of respect for Mr Mintoff.
4.48 p.m. Applause rings out as the hearse, covered in flowers, is driven down the hill and arrives at the Freedom Monument in Vittoriosa. Mary Spiteri wipes tears as she stands at the foot of the monument, opposite the hearse, and sings Tema '79 from the rock opera Gensna, interrupted by applause. A particularly emotional moment for those present. Some people sing with Mary Spiteri. The crowd bursts into chanting of Mintoff, Mintoff. Somebody shouts Grazzi Mintoff in a very loud voice. Members of the Mintoff family including his daughters join the crowd.
4.40 p.m. The cortège drives past the Macina, the Labour Party's former headquarters. Large crowds line the road into Senglea, a bulwark of Labour support.
4.35 p.m. After being driven through Tarxien Square, the cortège drives twice around Paola square amid constant applause by hundreds of people. Flowers are thrown on the hearse.
4.15 p.m. Slightly behind schedule, the coffin is carried out of the Mintoff residence in Tarxien and the hearse is driven slowly towards Tarxien Square. People line both sides of the road. Some struggle to touch the hearse as applause continues.
3.45 p.m. The cortège arrives outside the former prime minister's residence in Tarxien where a crowd of some 200 applauds as the hearse is driven slowly along the road in front of the house, where Mr Mintoff passed away last Monday aged 96.
Among those who arrived early outside Mr Mintoff's Tarxien residence this afternoon was Wistin Abela, who served throughout the Mintoff government years as parliamentary secretary and then minister, responsible, among others, for Air Malta and later for finance.
Many people take photos with their mobile phones and shout Viva l-Perit. Some have tears in their eyes.
The coffin is carried into the house amid constant applause. Flowers which had been placed outside the gate are placed on the coffin.
The members of the Mintoff family pay their tribute at the residence before the coffin is taken to Tarxien Square and then on to Cottonera.
Some of those in the crowd tell timesofmalta that they had prayed that this day would not come. They describe Mr Mintoff as Missier Malta Hielsa and point to social services as one of his main achievements.
3.15 p.m . The hearse drives out from Mater Dei Hospital shortly before 3.30 p.m. escorted by police motorcyclists.