Ian Paisley: David Amess and I hit it off instantly — me an Ulster Protestant, he a Roman Catholic

A letter from Ian Paisley MP:

Saturday, 16th October 2021, 11:27 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 12:01 pm
Ian Paisely and Sir David Amess. Mr Paisley writes: "I met David 12 years ago when I first entered the House. He was curious to get to know the 'son of the great man' as he said. We hit it off instantly"

The appalling murder of Sir David Amess MP is a chilling reminder to all of us in public service that the daily vilification in the media by commentators sets in motion circumstances that have tragic consequences.

Public service is a good thing. Those who give their lives to it are good people — accountable in the most open manner by election! Yet, daily we are subject to abuse. One in five members of parliament have reported incidents of attack.

Many of us have to take special security measures — not just in Northern Ireland because of republicanism — but across in England too. Because we dare to be a voice for the people who send us to parliament.

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Letter to the editor

The murder of Sir David ought to be the sounding of the whistle on that abuse.

David was a Goliath of a parliamentarian. He had just published his book on being an MP. My colleague Carla Lockhart (herself no stranger to abuse) and I had the privilege of recently joining David to help him launch his book. Why did he choose two Ulster MPs? Because David was a great loyal man to the kingdom.

He got on so well with the Ulster members.

I met David almost twelve years ago when I first entered the House. He invited me to dinner with him. He was curious to get to know the “son of the great man” as he said. We hit it off instantly. Me an Ulster protestant, David a devout Roman Catholic. Yes we had so much in common.

He had the most infectious laugh and was always in a upbeat frame of mind. If you ever wanted your spirits lifted. A cup of tea with David was the tonic!

His parliamentary office was a glimpse into his personality. It was festooned with union jacks, bunting, a gold fish bowl, and budgerigars. Photos of Her Majesty and of the Pope were prominent.

It was a real menagerie of a room. Outside it hung a card board cut out knight in shinning armour. He was so funny he was taking the Mickey of his well earned knighthood.

Such a lovely man. Friendly. A mine of parliamentary information. He knew everyone. He was quick witted and could make a positive contribution at every occasion. He entered parliament first when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister. He doted on her and often said to me how the “big beasts of parliament life have all gone”.

He would recount them — from both sides of the house and then laugh and joke about some people who thought they were big beasts today.

David was at home in parliament. He put his name to many acts and bills and he contributed on many subjects. He was devoted to many issues that I shared with him. The union, our place in it. The rights of the unborn and our economy. But he was always looking for that opportunity to raise the profile of Southend on sea his beloved constituency.

He campaigned tirelessly for city status for it and I’m sure was on the brink of success when he has been so mercilessly murdered.

I had the opportunity to meet David’s family when we were invited to Buckingham palace for tea. What an occasion. His family were devoted to their Dad. On other occasions we were travel companions on a number of parliamentary delegations with other colleagues David would lead us to meet some powerful and interesting people. Always capable of putting forward the importance of parliamentary democracy in a positive manner. Such a contrast to what has happened today.

David cared about a number of charitable causes. In particular I saw him with compassion speak about poverty and education as a way out of poverty around the world. On a visit to a orphanage I witnessed him weep for children that were in desperate need and saw him work to help solve those problems.

Being in public life is about doing that sort of thing everyday for folk. Unsung and without applause. Just because that is why we do this job. Despite the brickbats and the attacks we will carry on and we will do so promoting the memory of our fallen colleague Sir David.

I extend my thoughts and prayers to his family and circle of friends and pray God will give us all grace to cope with this despicable murder of a decent honourable gentleman.

Ian Paisley, DUP MP for North Antrim

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