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New Northern Ireland MPs make maiden speeches in House of Commons

By Lindsay Watling and Tim Sculthorpe

Published 02/06/2015

‘My life has encompassed so much of what is referred to by so many as the Troubles,’
Danny Kinahan
‘My life has encompassed so much of what is referred to by so many as the Troubles,’ Danny Kinahan
Labour's Conor McGinn
The DUP's Gavin Robinson

There is "no longer any contradiction" to being Irish and British, according to a new Labour MP who is the son of a former Sinn Fein councillor and now represents an English constituency.

Conor McGinn is from Co Armagh but represents St Helen's North in Merseyside.

He was one of three new MPs from Northern Ireland making their maiden speeches in the House of Commons yesterday.

The other two were the DUP's Gavin Robinson, who won Belfast East from Alliance MP Naomi Long, and the Ulster Unionist Danny Kinahan, who took South Antrim from the DUP's Willie McCrea.

Bessbrook-born Conor McGinn is the son of former Newry Sinn Fein councillor Pat McGinn.

He has worked as a senior adviser to former shadow Secretary of State Vernon Coaker.

Mr McGinn describes himself as a "child of the peace process" and paid tribute to all those who had helped build peace and reconciliation. Giving his maiden speech in the Commons, he said: "If we describe generations as children of ... defining events, then I am most certainly a child of the peace process.

"The changed relationship between Britain and Ireland and the end of the terrible conflict that caused so much pain to the peoples of these islands has afforded me opportunities tonight denied to many who came before.

"I am in debt to all of those in this House and outside it, who have through their sacrifice, courage and leadership over many years helped build peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

"I do not wish to disrupt the etiquette of the House, but I hope I might be able to call them all my honourable friends.

"Where previously there was suspicion and mistrust, today there is friendship and co-operation between the UK and Ireland.

"There is no longer any contradiction to being Irish and British and having feelings of loyalty and affinity to both countries."

Mr Kinahan used his first speech in the Commons to thank those who had helped bring about and steer the peace process.

He is now one of two Ulster Unionist MPs in the Commons, alongside Tom Elliott. Speaking in the Queen's Speech debate on foreign affairs, he said: "My life has encompassed so much of what is referred to by so many as the Troubles.

"I would like to ask everyone in this House to remember all those soldiers, sailors, airmen, some 250,000, also the politicians, the civil servants, the businessmen and so many more who over the last 45 years have done so much for Northern Ireland - 1,441 giving their lives."

East Belfast MP Mr Robinson said unionism had been rejuvenated by the general election but the Scottish referendum demonstrated the need to "rekindle the flames of passion".

But he also issued a warning to all unionist parties in the House of Commons as they are joined by a greatly enlarged delegation from the Scottish National Party.

Mr Robinson said: "There has been much said about the consequences and the impact of this general election.

"The general election in Northern Ireland has rejuvenated unionism. I am delighted to have returned East Belfast to unionist hands, my colleague, the new MP for South Antrim (Danny Kinahan), retains that seat for unionism, but his colleague, the MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Tom Elliott), brings back a seat that was lost some 14 years ago.

"But the lesson I think must be there for all within this House, that the cerebral argument only took us so far last September and all those who value the union, all those who recognise the benefits of the union and are prepared to extol its virtues, need to rekindle the flames of passion and desire for this United Kingdom as a whole."

Belfast Telegraph

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