Givan leads tribute to murdered MP
In a very sombre meeting of the Assembly just days after the killing of Sir David Amess MP First Minister and Lagan Valley MLA Mr Paul Givan lead tributes to the murdered MP .
“It is right that, today, at the start of proceedings, we come together to pay our respects to Sir David Amess MP, who was brutally killed when serving his community. We remember especially his wife, Julia, and his five children,” said First Minister Paul Givan.
He continued: “Sir David Amess was a Member of Parliament since 1983, which is nearly 40 years of service. He was a giant of Westminster politics, and, rightly, tributes have been paid from right across the political spectrum.
“A tireless Back-Bencher who never held government office, he used his role to champion the cause of his constituency, not least, recently, in respect of city status for Southend but also on causes that were close to his heart, such as animal welfare, fuel poverty and supporting refugees.
“I listened to the minister of the church in which he was so cruelly slain pay tribute to Sir David and the work that he was doing to assist refugees in the community.
He added: “Sir David was a close friend of the Democratic Unionist Party and a close friend of Northern Ireland. He was someone with whom we shared common values. He was passionately pro-Union and passionate about Northern Ireland’s place within it. He was deeply pro-life, caring for people at all stages of their life, and we mourn his loss.” Mr Givan went on to say: “The police are now investigating under terrorism laws. Northern Ireland has never been immune from attacks on democracy from terrorists.
“We think of Robert Bradford MP, who was killed in 1981.
“We think of those who served in these institutions: Edgar Graham, Assembly Member, killed in 1983; Captain the Right Honourable Sir Norman Stronge, killed in 1981, having served, at one point, as Speaker of this place; Senator Jack Barnhill, 1971; and Senator Paddy Wilson, 1973.
“We have memorialised those who served in this Building in the Rotunda just outside the Chamber.
“There have been multiple attacks on public representatives over the years, and Members of this House from all sides continue to receive threats. That is to be condemned.
“We need to think about how we treat each other and how we speak to each other. That goes beyond just this Assembly Chamber; it goes to wider society. Too often, I hear public representatives being dehumanised by people and dehumanised by the media. We are very much part of this society, not separate from it, and all of us need to reflect on that.” Concluding Mr Givan warned against “character assassination” of people.
He said: “Social media is like the Wild West. So, too, at times, is the mainstream media. It brings on commentators who engage in character assassination. We need to reflect on that.
“Today is about remembering a faithful public servant. We join in mourning his loss, and we send our deepest Christian sympathies to his family and friends.”
Conveying his condolences to Sir David’s bereaved family Lagan Valley MLA Mr Robbie Butler and he urged the need to “dial down the rhetoric”.
“As has been said, this country and this island are not immune to deaths of elected representatives. Edgar Graham, Robert Bradford, Sir Norman Stronge, James Stronge and Charlie Armstrong felt that hand, amongst others from my party. There was also Robert McBirney and Paddy Wilson.
“We must also remember the humanity that sometimes surfaces.
“The Member for Upper Bann talked about Charlie Armstrong: I read a report about Pat Brannigan, the SDLP mayor at that time, who perhaps was the first on the scene to assist Charlie. We must think of that. What are we going to do? What will we learn? How will we react to this event?
“Much has been made of social media. I noticed that Nichola Mallon received an absolutely disgusting and horrendous Twitter message last night that looks like a direct threat of hurt and violence. That is absolutely despicable.
“We need to do something collectively, whether in the Assembly or collaboratively with the Westminster Parliament.
“We need to find ways to tackle this scourge. It does not just affect elected representatives: as said in the Chamber, it affects teachers, health workers and shopworkers. It affects society, and it is not good enough.”
Mr Butler concluded: “This has been said in the Chamber and has been tweeted out about 100 or maybe 1,000 times: ‘Dial down the rhetoric’. There is a message for us today. We have responsibility for our own button.
“We can dial down our own rhetoric. In the highest elected office in this country, we must take responsibility if, by omission or by ramping it up, we contribute to it.
“Let us, as leaders in the Assembly, not wash our hands of our responsibility to ensure that we turn the volume down. Let us work together for the betterment of everybody as a lasting tribute to Sir David Amess.”