Death of Jo Cox, MP: Expressions of Sympathy 21 June 2016

Posted on June 22, 2016

I wish to share time with my colleague, Senator Ó Ríordáin, with the slot divided in three minutes and two minutes. I stand to pay tribute to Jo Cox, MP, and join the tributes being paid by others as leader of the Labour Party group in the House, as a woman Labour Party public representative and as a mother of two young children, as Jo Cox was.

  The shocking and horrific murder of a young talented MP with a bright future in the British Labour Party was an attack on democracy. She was a devoted mother and wife, a keen activist on humanitarian issues and a former aid worker who spent more than a decade of her life on the front-line of aid provision in the developing world. Her death has shocked and moved people throughout the world and in Ireland. Tomorrow would have been her 42nd birthday. I and my Labour Party colleagues are proud to wear a white rose for Yorkshire in Jo Cox's honour. She was a feminist; she fought hard for women's rights internationally and nationally. She had an incredible record of activism on a range of issues in her short life. She was director of the maternal mortality campaign to stop women and babies dying needlessly in pregnancy and childbirth. She had chaired the Labour Party women's network in Britain and was a tireless campaigner for gender equality as well as development issues. Others have mentioned her work with Oxfam. She was Oxfam's head of global policy, having been an aid worker previously. Since being elected for the first time a short time ago for the constituency of Batley and Spen in Yorkshire she had made some articulate and passionate speeches. Others have quoted from those speeches. I believe those speeches will continue to inspire young people, especially women, to enter politics in future. I have in mind in particular her speech in April in support of the Alf Dubs amendment on the need to bring unaccompanied refugee children to Britain.

  While the upcoming referendum on British membership of the European Union should not cloud over the horrific attack on democracy represented by the murder of Jo Cox, it does have important lessons for us. First, the need for respect in debate and respect for the views of others. Probably all of us in this House and people elsewhere have been subject to hate mail, as people in public life tend to be. However, I believe her death showed the need to tone down debate. We have seen recognition in Britain this week that the debate had to become less heated, nasty and violent in tone. As many commented, the day of her death was also the day the infamous UKIP poster headed "Breaking Point" was released, reaching a new low in the already ugly campaign being run by the Leave side in support of Brexit, a campaign already tainted by racism but which, with that poster, showed a really horrible depth.

  Second, Jo Cox's death reminds us that her career and outlook on politics was eminently international. She was a woman who was simultaneously proud of her Yorkshire roots and her constituency of Batley and Spen but also seriously involved in international issues and the need to welcome refugees. This was particularly important at a time when we are seeing the greatest displacement of refugees of any time in history as well as the impact of climate change and grave issues around international conflict.

  She had worked on an all-party parliamentary group on Syria with Tory MP, Andrew Mitchell, who was among the many MPs who paid moving tributes to her in the House of Commons yesterday. Our thoughts now are with her husband, Brendan Cox, her two young children, Leila and Cuillin, her grieving parents, her sister and family. We should recall, as her husband said, that her death must show us that love is stronger than hate and that what unites us is stronger than what divides us.

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