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Belfast rally among events cancelled in wake of Jo Cox's killing

By Yvette Shapiro

Published 18/06/2016

Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn lay flowers in Birstall
Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn lay flowers in Birstall

A major event to promote a Brexit vote in the EU referendum has been cancelled following the murder of Jo Cox.

The Leave campaign had organised a rally for this morning at the Park Avenue Hotel in east Belfast, featuring former Conservative Defence Secretary Liam Fox, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, DUP leader Arlene Foster and UKIP's David McNarry.

The panel was to have been chaired by veteran Ballymena businessman William Wright, chairman of Wrightbus. However, the brutal murder of Mrs Cox has prompted the cancellation of political events across the UK.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny suspended his campaign to encourage the estimated 60,000 Irish people living in the UK to vote in the referendum following the news of the Labour MP's death in her West Yorkshire constituency on Thursday afternoon.

The Republic's Housing Minister Simon Coveney, from Fine Gael, also cancelled a trip to Belfast yesterday.

South Belfast MP Dr Alasdair McDonnell paid tribute to the Labour politician, who was the mother of two children.

"As an MP and as a father, I'm horrified that a public official could be hacked down in broad daylight," he said. "I knew her and shared the benches in the Commons with her. She was an outstanding individual, a warm, vivacious and determined young woman. Her murder has had a devastating impact on MPs."

David Cameron issued a plea for tolerance in British political life as he joined Jeremy Corbyn and John Bercow to pay tribute to Ms Cox in the West Yorkshire town where she was killed.

The Prime Minister said the whole nation was "rightly shocked" at her death, and called for people to "value and see as precious the democracy that we have on these islands".

Parliament is to be recalled on Monday to allow MPs to pay tribute to the mother of two, who Mr Cameron described as one of the "most passionate and brilliant campaigners" in the House of Commons.

Meanwhile, the father of the MP's assistant, Fazila Aswat, described how his daughter tried to comfort Mrs Cox after the attack.

He said: "She said her injury was so bad, and she was in her arms. There was lots of blood. (My daughter) said 'Jo, get up', but she said 'No, my pain is too much, Fazila'. I think those were the last words Jo spoke."

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