Tributes flow for murdered MP David Amess

Tributes flow for murdered MP David Amess Councillor Helen Boyd speaks during a prayer vigil for murdered British lawmaker David Amess at St Peter’s Catholic Church in Leigh-on-Sea, UK, October 15. Photo: CNS.

Up to last Friday lunchtime I had never heard of Sir David Amess MP, and having heard all the wonderful tributes that followed his tragic death I wish I had.

Shortly after lunch, news of the stabbing started trickling through on Twitter. I was listening to Sheelagh Fogarty (LBC) where it was the main topic of conversation, and then a correspondent broke the news that he had died. The shock was palpable in the studio. Fogarty interviewed her LBC colleague Iain Dale who was due to meet him that night to address a group in his constituency. He could barely contain his emotion. All through the day friends, colleagues and constituents had nothing but praise for him.


On The Last Word (Today FM), another LBC broadcaster Nick Ferrari paid fulsome tribute and struggled to find the right superlative. On Times Radio Drive Sir Keir Starmer, Labour Party leader, described how Sir David was informed by his Christian faith and “a profound sense of duty”. Another contributor referred to him as “a great encourager”. Ian Duncan Smith, a fellow Conservative and former party leader said he wasn’t a career politician, had no ambition to be a minister, but found it enough to be an effective constituency MP. Words like ‘kindness’, ‘service’ and ‘vocation’ kept cropping up. On Drivetime (RTE Radio 1) Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror added in some detail I didn’t hear elsewhere – that he was a “social conservative” who was opposed to abortion and same sex marriage. A few subsequent tributes mentioned his support for the pro-life cause and there was much reporting of his animal welfare work.

Later, on Andrew Pierce (LBC), the host described it as a “hideous irony” that a devoted Catholic Christian was murdered in a church. He spoke of how his guest, former MP Anne Widdecombe, was “deeply distressed” at the news. She told of how she had discussions with him before she became a Catholic. We were reminded that he had described the abuse politicians get on social media as “truly appalling”. The distress and division caused by social and indeed mainstream media came under scrutiny and no doubt will inform ongoing discussions on the political climate.

On Sunday’s Times Radio Breakfast Luke Jones interviewed Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who described the murder in church as a “tragic poignancy”. He said Sir David was a Catholic “in the best sense of the word” who set the “noble example” of getting on well with people who disagreed with him. Similarly there were gracious words of praise from someone whose politics were very different from his, the Labour Party’s Lisa Nandy, on The Andrew Marr Show (BBC One, Sunday).


Shortly after that there was a welcome antidote to all the harsh divisiveness of public debate. A new series, Scotland’s Sacred Islands with Ben Fogle (BBC One), was a beautifully filmed and relaxing exploration of religious faith and life on the Outer Hebrides, and in this first episode focusing on the southern islands we learned that Catholicism had stayed strong even after the Reformation. One resident described the islands as being “steeped in faith”, where faith and work were “indivisible”. Of course Irish missionaries had been instrumental in this from the beginning and the first island Fogle visited, Barra, was named after St Finbarr. One contributor referred to the place as “Barradise”.

I was struck by the statues of Our Lady dotted around the islands – very often of the Madonna with child. One such, Our Lady of the Sea, looked out on spectacular views. Another strikingly tall statue was placed close to a rather out-of-place missile tracking station – truly a blot on the landscape – which Fogle saw as the islanders showing who’s boss, and it wasn’t the Ministry of Defence! The next island, Mingulay, was uninhabited but he saw the natural beauty as “staggering” (captured marvellously by the aerial photography) with cliffs “like a huge cavernous cathedral”. “This is my church…my place of worship”, he said.

Later he said he was “not particularly religious”, but was “profoundly moved” by the place. While he was awed by the spirituality of the place and the people, he was deeply respectful of religion and conveyed a strong sense of the religious communities on the islands whose genuineness came across strongly.

Reflecting on one’s special places and where one is at home he concluded it was “where you feel spiritually at home”.


Pick of the week
RTÉ One Sunday October 24, 11 am

Mass for World Mission Sunday with members of Misean Cara, AMRI and Missio Ireland. Musical director, Cora Coffey from In Caelo Choir, Newbridge: celebrant, Spiritan Missionary Fr Brendan Carr.

Mother Cabrini
EWTN Sunday October 24, 9 pm

An EWTN original movie on the life of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, who founded the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and established missions around the world.

Growing up poor: Britain’s hidden homeless kids
Channel 4 Monday October 25, 8 pm

Reporting on the long-term implications of lockdown on young children, especially for the 1.5 million people living in England in overcrowded and unsuitable housing.