'We owe her an enormous debt of gratitude': Aiken pays tribute to Lady Sylvia Hermon
Political leaders paid tribute to the independent unionist MP on Wednesday
Incoming Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken has said Northern Ireland owes a debt of gratitude to Lady Sylvia Hermon after she announced she would not contest the General Election.
Northern Ireland's only independent unionist MP, Lady Hermon was formally a member of the UUP until 2009, when she left after its electoral pact with the Conservative Party.
Speaking on Wednesday evening, Mr Aiken said: "We all owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Lady Sylvia Hermon, not only for her service to North Down, but to all of Northern Ireland. She has been on many occasions a lone voice of reason in Westminster.
"She has served Unionism and North Down with distinction. She is a dedicated public servant who treated her constituents with respect and integrity. I wish her well as she steps down from frontline elected politics and I hope she enjoys much more time with her family."
The SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the North Down MP was a strong solitary remain voice standing up for people across Northern Ireland.
"Sylvia Hermon has put in a mammoth shift, single handedly representing and defending the remain majority in Northern Ireland at Westminster. While DUP MPs have distorted and misrepresented our position, Sylvia Hermon demonstrated the power and purpose of a single MP of immense conviction. She deserves our thanks and I hope she enjoys more well earned time with her family.
"Pro-Remain parties need to take some breathing space, analyse the results in North Down over the last number of elections at Assembly level, Westminster and others to determine how best to challenge a hard Brexit candidate. The SDLP will not seek to divide the vote here by standing. We would urge others to be strategic, not selfish, here too," he said.
The DUP leader Arlene Foster said she wished Lady Hermon all the best for the future.
"She was always committed and principled but most of all a dedicated representative for her constituents in North Down."
Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew wished Lady Hermon well.
"Lady Hermon was a diligent representative for the people of North Down and we have been friends since we were both elected to Westminster.
"While we held different political perspectives, I found her to be someone who acted at all times with respect and integrity.
"I want to wish Lady Sylvia and her family well in the future as she leaves elected politics at this election."
The Alliance Party's Stephen Farry said: "Sylvia Hermon has been a great servant to North Down and Northern Ireland over the past years. In particular, she has stood up against a reckless Brexit and for the GFA. We wish her well for her next steps."
The Tanaiste Simon Coveney said he had 'so much' respect for Lady Hermon.
"She has been a rock of sense through the Brexit debates of recent years. A proud unionist and hugely capable parliamentarian - she will be missed by many people from all backgrounds in Northern Ireland."
Belfast Telegraph Digital