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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 19 Oct 2021

Vol. 1012 No. 7

Death of Sir David Amess MP: Expressions of Sympathy

Time has been set aside for expressions of sympathy for the late Sir David Amess MP. We were all profoundly shocked to hear of his death and the manner of it last Friday. He spent more than half of his life in the House of Commons and the tributes from all sides within that House and outside it confirm how popular and well-respected he was. I offer my heartfelt condolences to his wife Julia, his son and his four daughters. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis. Tuigim go bhfuil daoine ag iarraidh cúpla focal a rá.

On behalf of the Government, and particularly my colleagues Deputies Varadkar and Eamon Ryan who cannot be here and have asked me to speak on their behalf, I join with the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and all Members of the House in expressing our deepest sympathies at the untimely and tragic death of Sir David Amess. Sir David was so needlessly murdered while meeting with and serving his own constituents last Friday in Southend-on-Sea. Holding clinics is something we as elected representatives do as part of our public service to the communities we serve. Face-to-face interaction with constituents is what makes our job worthwhile and fruitful. It is a crucial part of our democracy and we should do our utmost to protect and continue it. Sir David's murder was an attack on democracy. I was struck at how all Members of Westminster spoke so highly and kindly of Sir David, at how he had numerous friends across all parties and was described as someone who was exceptionally decent, down to earth and hard-working. One could not but be moved by the extraordinary expressions of solidarity and friendship from his constituents and the people he served, who spoke about him so eloquently. It is a wonderful legacy as a politician to have that. I sincerely hope that Sir David's wife Julia and his four daughters receive some comfort from these kind comments as they deal with their deep personal and very sad loss.

I add my voice and that of Sinn Féin in sympathy to the family of David Amess. As his family no doubt grieve a very traumatic and sudden loss, I too hope that the well wishes and regards from this House, but also from right across the world, bring them some small comfort. To his wife Julia, his children and their wider family we send our sincere condolences. The job of public service and public representation is all about people. It is about being up close and sometimes very personal with people and so his loss sends a shock wave through not just the British system but internationally. For all of us who are proud to be elected and represent our citizens, we share in the shock of the constituents of Southend West, David's constituency, who I have no doubt are equally traumatised, shocked and saddened by his loss. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

On behalf of the Labour Party, I express my sincerest condolences to the Amess family and to all of Sir David's colleagues. When I heard this chilling news last Friday, my immediate thought was that it could have been any of us. At the same time David was attacked last Friday, most of us were doing the very same thing he was, that is, representing and serving our constituents at our regular Friday clinics. The killing of David Amess reminds us all of the brutal murder of our UK Labour Party colleague, Jo Cox, just five short years ago.

David Amess should not have died like this in the course of his work as a public representative. No public representative or public servant should ever have to die like this. The genesis of the kind of hate that led to this brutal killing needs to be reflected on by all of us. This country is not immune. Our national Parliament, by which I mean these Houses, has a role in dialling down division. How we behave in here and online is watched. The good example of being able to debate ferociously but disagree respectfully needs to be shown more here. Too often, our standards fall short.

May David Amess rest in peace.

On behalf of the Social Democrats, I express our sincere sympathies to the Amess family on what is a huge personal tragedy for them. The murder of David Amess is also an attack on democracy just as the murder of Jo Cox was. There is no doubt that we live in a much more divided and unequal world and that there has been a coarsening of political discourse, which has made politics all the more toxic. A line has been crossed here. We cannot go looking for excuses because there are no excuses for what happened to David Amess. I believe we will all be united in our condemnation of his murder. We all know just how essential it is for us to have interaction with our constituents, whether it is in the UK or here, and that should always continue to be the case.

On behalf of People Before Profit, I extend our deepest sympathies to the wife, daughters, family, friends and constituents of David Amess. To be murdered in that way is really horrific, terrible and tragic. It should certainly give us all pause for reflection.

As others have alluded to, whatever about political differences and the need for robust debate, a critical part of our democracy is our ability to engage with our constituents. In some countries, public representatives have to be flanked by heavy security all the time. We never want to go down that road. We must preserve that relationship. Even though things can get tense at times, we want to preserve that relationship. We have to fight to maintain that relationship with our constituents through our clinics. As terrible and tragic as this is, we must not let this tragedy undermine that relationship that public representatives have to maintain with their constituents and those who elect them.

On behalf of the Regional Group, I echo the sentiments and attitudes expressed already and convey my deepest sympathies to David Amess's family and friends. The lesson I draw from how Sir David lived his parliamentary life is that it is perfectly okay to disagree with somebody while still maintaining a very professional and courteous relationship. Those two states are perfectly compatible and can coexist quite happily. There is probably a lesson in than that for all of us.

While I fully appreciate that the Amess family must be utterly devastated at the moment, I would like to think that, in the fullness of time, they will be able to draw some semblance of comfort from the fact that he died with his boots on, doing the job he loved surrounded by the people he loved, namely, his constituents. We should not amend our constituency practices. I believe that is what Sir David would have liked us to do, and that is the best way to respond and to honour his memory.

In the absence of Deputy Mattie McGrath and on behalf of the Rural Independent Group, I offer our sincerest sympathies to Sir David Amess's family, his constituents and the whole political system, which has been rocked by this shocking attack on democracy because that is what this is. Whether it is a lorry driver, someone working for a local authority, a taxi driver, a politician or any other person fulfilling his or her function in life, when a person dies doing his or her work it is a terrible sad thing to happen. To die so unnecessarily in this way is a shocking attack. That is why we all have to unite and use this opportunity to say enough is enough when it comes to the slippery slope we have gone down in the past number of years, with online attacks. Things have been said about women and men in politics and we seem to have grown to accept that just because you are anonymous online, you can say whatever you like about a person just because that person is a politician. That is not right and this is a time for us to stand up and show the rest of Europe we will not take that type of nonsense lying down. Politicians should stand up for themselves and say we will not take that type of abuse because we are here to serve. We want to continue to serve and keep the link with people. Clinics are so important. It is terribly important to be able to go out to meet people and sit down and listen to groups. Nobody ever wants to see that connection broken.

On behalf of the Independent Group, I extend our sincere sympathy to the family, friends and constituents of the late Sir David Amess. To his wife, Julia, and his daughters and son, we say we stand in solidarity with them to recognise and remember a man who they, in their own words, describe as strong and courageous, a patriot and a man of peace. The brutal murder of David Amess was a senseless and shocking act. The context in which it occurred matters very much and while it must be noted, its discussion is for another day.

In our expression of sympathy, we recognise a man for whom representative democracy was just that - representing his constituents and what mattered in their lives in the House of Commons. He used his platform as an MP to raise awareness and bring about change. That change was firmly rooted, and not in some abstract ideological perspective; rather it came from listening, being available and finding ways to translate the needs of his constituents into policy or legislative change. Like many in this House, I did not know David Amess or his family, but I hope their pain will be slightly lessened by the fact that the tributes we pay to him are real, meaningful and based on a lifetime of service. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Suaimhneas síoraí dá anam. It is appropriate to have a minute's silence.

Members rose.