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Jo Cox's murder can change politics for the better, says Foster

By Noel McAdam

MP Jo Cox's death should fuel a fresh start to how politics is done here, First Minister Arlene Foster has told the Assembly.

The DUP leader said she hoped the tragic killing would lead MLAs to redouble their efforts "to do politics differently".

Stormont staged tributes to the Labour MP at the same time as a debate took place in the Commons, which was recalled from recess yesterday.

Speaker Robin Newton said he had written to his Westminster counterpart, John Bercow, voicing the condolences of the Assembly to Mrs Cox's family over their "heartbreaking loss", adding: "We have too much history of elected representatives from all sides being subject to threat or attack".

Mrs Foster said: "When I took over as First Minister, I made a call for us to do politics differently. We have made progress, but let this event help us to redouble our efforts in Northern Ireland.

"On this day, let us remember the words of President Kennedy that civility is not a sign of weakness, and remember that this dreadful event can bring a new civility to politics and not just for a few days. It can be seen as a new start in how politics is done."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness added: "All of this has to serve to inspire all of us to ensure, particularly given what we came through during the conflict here, that we continue to work together with a positive and constructive spirit and in a spirit of generosity with each other to ensure that we continue to move forward."

Former Justice Minister David Ford said: "Too many public representatives are subject to a tide of vilification for the work that they do, and it seems to be an issue that particularly affects women in public life, who are subjected to torrents of abuse from men who feel they have some right to spew out hatred."

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said his party's former South Belfast MP, Rev Robert Bradford, was the first Northern Ireland MP murdered during the Troubles.

"In November 1981, he was doing what Jo Cox was trying to do last Thursday: serving his constituents by holding a surgery in a community centre in Finaghy in Belfast," he added.

"No one party has a monopoly on the death of elected politicians during the course of our Troubles. We know only too well what it is like to see others attack the democratic process."

In the Commons, Northern Ireland MPs also spoke out against the murder.

Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the DUP, said Mrs Cox's life should not be defined by how it ended, but by what she did while she was alive.

He also said people from all sides in Northern Ireland had experienced attacks and lost friends during the Troubles, adding: "We have felt the pain and anguish that those close to Jo are going through now.

"I speak today, by agreement, for all the Northern Ireland parties and members represented in this house.

"Whatever is said cannot adequately express our deepest, most heartfelt feelings, but through the words which have been spoken already and will be spoken, I pray that Jo's family may find some comfort and solace at this terrible time.

"It is right that we as parliamentarians should meet today to record not just our disgust and outrage at what has happened to an honoured colleague, but also to express our determination to uphold the values of democracy and the open and accessible way in which we conduct our political life in this country."

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