Mr. Airey Neave
I regret to have to inform the House of the death of Airey Middleton Sheffield Neave, esquire, DSO, OBE, MC, TD, Member for Abingdon, and I desire, on behalf of the House, to express our sense of the loss we have sustained and our sympathy with the relatives of the hon. Member.
May I take a few moments to express our grief and horror at the contemptible assassination of Airey Neavea greatly esteemed colleague and, for many of us, a very dear friend? We do not expect these things to happen in this country, but somehow they have happened here.
In peacetime Airey was a very gentle and unassuming man, but absolutely tenacious in the pursuit of everything he believed in and strong to root out injustice. In wartime his valour and courage were unsurpassed. It is partly because of men like him that we meet to assemble in this place in free debated.
Airey asked me whether he could do the work in Northern Ireland. He loved it, felt that he was beginning to understand the sensitivities of the people, felt he had a contribution to make and wanted to continue with it. Tragically, he fell victim to a group of people who, because they were unable to conquer men's hearts and minds by persuasion, turned to killing and murder. We condemn them with all the power and strength at our command.
Airey has left a wonderful wife whose character and courage match his. Her dignity is an example to us all. She said to me “I want only to be worthy of Airey” . She is in every way, and we grieve with her. [column 908]
Airey 's death diminishes us, but it will enhance our resolve that the God-given freedoms in which he believed, and which are the foundation of our parliamentary democracy, will in the end triumph over the acts of evil men. We mourn and salute a true and faithful friend.
The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)
If you will permit me, Mr. Speaker, I wish to associate Her Majesty's Government—I think that I can speak for all right hon. and hon. Members of all parties—with everything that the right hon. Lady has said about a tragic, violent and despicable murder. Mrs. Neave and her family have the profound sympathy of us all. We trust that she will be given strength to uphold her in what will undoubtedly be a most difficult time for her. I express our sympathy to the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition and her colleagues, who have lost a valued and esteemed colleague and a member of their counsels.
I share with the right hon. Lady the view that nothing that has happened—these violent and evil happenings—must be allowed to deflect any of us from endeavouring to secure peace and justice for all the people of Northern Ireland.
I must inform the House that I have received messages from other Parliaments and from this country expressing sympathy with the House and with the family of our late colleague.
Although I know that every right hon. and hon. Member and every party in the House would like to be personally associated with the tributes that have been paid, I hope we may assume that the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister have spoken for everyone in the House. After Question Time I shall be making a statement on security measures in the precincts of the House. I hope that the House will now agree to move on to other business.