The UK is in mourning following the shocking murder of British MP Sir David Amess on Friday. Sir David was meeting with constituents at the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, when he was stabbed up to 17 times.
Ian Paisley Jr. of the DUP has led tributes in Northern Ireland to the MP, writing in an open letter that the pair “hit it off instantly” despite the differences in their cultural and religious backgrounds.
The investigation is being led by counter-terror police who have arrested a 25-year-old British national, who is thought to be of Somali heritage, on suspicion of murder. In a statement the force said its inquiries “revealed a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism”. The suspect remains in police custody.
The 69-year-old father of five, who was MP for Southend West, was tragically pronounced dead a short time after the attack despite the effort of paramedics to save him. Politicians, colleagues and friends have described their heartbreak and shock, paying tribute to the “always smiling, always energetic” MP.
His family said they are “absolutely broken” by the “cruel and violent” murder of the loving father and husband. His wife Julia and five children last night (Sunday, October 17) paid tribute to “courageous” Sir David in a touching statement, writing: “He was a patriot and a man of peace. Nobody should die in that way.”
In Northern Ireland, Ian Paisley Jr. has led tributes to the MP, describing Sir David as “such a lovely man” and “a goliath of a Parliamentarian ”. In a touching open letter published in The News Letter on Saturday, the DUP MP for North Antrim wrote that the pair “hit it off instantly” despite Sir David being a devout Catholic and Mr Paisley being an Ulster Protestant.
“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,” Mr Paisley said.
“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,” he wrote.
“The murder of Sir David ought to be the sounding of the whistle on that abuse.”
Mr Paisley recounted how the pair’s differences in culture and religion never hindered their friendship.
“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 shining armour.”
Referring to Sir David’s humility, he writes: “He was so funny he was taking the Mickey of his well earned knighthood.”
The MP paints a picture of a warm and personable man, who he describes as “quick witted” and “friendly”: “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.”
Honing in on Sir David’s strong pro-life stance and passion for his much-loved constituency of Southend on sea, he writes: “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 an orphanage I witnessed him weep for children that were in desperate need and saw him work to help solve those problems.”
Mr Paisley concluded the moving letter stating that MPs would carry on in their role in public life “promoting the memory” of their colleague Sir David.
“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.”
In a dignified and poignant statement, Sir David’s wife and children also vowed to carry on for his sake.
“We ask people to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all. This is the only way forward. Set aside hatred and work towards togetherness. Whatever one’s race, religious or political beliefs, be tolerant and try to understand,” they said.
“As a family, we are trying to understand why this awful thing has occurred. Nobody should die in that way. Nobody. Please let some good come from this tragedy. We are absolutely broken, but we will survive and carry on for the sake of a wonderful and inspiring man,” they wrote.