Northern Ireland MP in tears during House of Commons debate on public disasters

DUP MP Jim Shannon broke down in tears during a debate in the House of Commons on proposed reforms to the criminal justice system to better respond to families bereaved by public disasters.

Thursday, 16th September 2021, 9:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th September 2021, 10:46 pm
The Omagh bomb in 1998 led to the deaths of 29 people

Mr Shannon mentioned the Omagh bombing of 1998 during which 29 people were killed before having to compose himself.

Other public disasters brought into focus in the Commons debate were Hillsborough Stadium in 1989 and Grenfell Tower in 2017.

DUP MP for Strangford, Mr Shannon, said: “The Justice Secretary said previously the Government would always consider opportunities to review the law. Today is the day. I believe this House is asking for that to happen.

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“I want to get more of a counter reflect on an event in the past, which also supports the case for reforming the criminal justice system. I refer to the Omagh bombing of 1998. I also remember that day. It was a Saturday.”

The MP for Strangford was then comforted by Labour MP for Knowsley Sir George Howarth.

The Omagh bomb, which went off months after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, was the worst single atrocity of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Labour MP Maria Eagle, who instigated the debate on establishing a public advocate, told the justice minister her proposals were “small, cheap” reforms that would “make a real difference”.

The Garston and Halewood MP added: “I hope that he will remember the emotion and the power of the speeches because something really must be done, and just coming back in December and saying we will have a code of conduct will not cut it.”

Another MP fought back tears as he recalled his experiences of Hillsborough, telling the Commons: “It’s something you never forget.”

Labour’s Ian Byrne said: I will never, ever forget the kindness of the people of Sheffield who were asking, as we walked to the station, numbed, did we want to phone home to tell our families we were safe.

“I, like many others, had family and friends in the Leppings Lane and before we had mobile phones and social media, we were hearing rumours of how many people injured, how many people had died, so it was a long, long journey home and the next few days.

“Getting a call from my dad saying he’s OK and friends, but then of course we lost friends from school, our community. It’s something you never forget.”

Shadow justice secretary David Lammy has urged the Government to “get it right”, as tragedies like the Grenfell Tower fire demonstrate the need to prepare the justice system.

He told MPs: “The truth is I may well get emotional myself because I am thinking throughout this debate about the victims and the loved ones of the Grenfell fire, and my friend Khadija Say and her mother, who lost their lives.”

Mr Lammy told the House of Commons: “And it’s for that reason that we must set this right because tragedies have come after Hillsborough and we are still waiting.”

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