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I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this tribute, but I regret that I was not in my place to take part in the tributes to you, Mr Speaker. I should say that I was not here for your tributes because I was adhering to your rule that we cannot just beetle into the Chamber after the start of a debate, although I realise that you might not have been adhering to that rule quite so strictly today as on other occasions. Had I been here from the start, or had I had the opportunity to participate, I would have said that one of the things you have done, with which I would like to associate myself in every way, is to give steadfast support to Rose. Not only before I joined this House but subsequently, on a number of occasions, I have heard you stand steadfastly and resolutely against racism associated with her as an individual, and against gender bias and gender discrimination. What you have exuded with your appointment of Rose as Speaker’s Chaplain is what I hope we as a House embody. I have never heard a Member of this House—maybe they did previously— criticise Rose. I think she is wonderful. She exudes a faith that I do not talk about often but that I hold personally and privately.
The shadow Leader of the House, who is also a wonderful lady, said that she was sorry that Rose was not here. I think that that embodies Rose’s character. She was here during your tributes as a steadfast support for you, Mr Speaker, but she is much too humble to be here for this. She exudes the Christian strength that we should all embody. I have been here four years. On occasions I have gone to Rose, tapped her on the shoulder and shared with her the difficulties that some of my colleagues have been facing. I know, without asking, that she then went to see them. She provided the strength, the assurance and the love that she exudes on our God’s behalf.
The Leader of the House mentioned the comfort that we get from liturgy. There is huge comfort from liturgy, but depending on who gives it, it can often appear repetitive. That has never been the case during Prayers in this House. I remember Alex Chalk, who is not in his place, talking about her beautiful intonation. The poetry she injected into scripture brought it alive for us. As somebody from Ulster Protestantism who knows how important Sunday morning is, I did not think I would skip into those Anglican ways of believing that coming into this Chamber for Prayers was important. Not only is it important, but it has provided huge comfort for me. Not every day, but on the days when we are facing difficulties collectively and on days whenever, nationally, we know that politics is in a bad place, just coming here for those three or four minutes and hearing the Word expounded in such a beautiful way is a huge source of strength.
I have never spoken publicly before, and I probably will not do so again, about the difficulties that my wife faced when my son was born. Those difficulties meant that public baptism at the front of church was not an option. So, two years after he was born, Rose baptised him here, very privately and very personally. As a two-year-old, when the light of life was passed, he blew it out. When solemn prayers were being shared, he was trying to run around. Rose just put her arm around him and held on there during all those precious moments. She has been precious to me and to my wife, and I know she has been precious to many in this House. For my part, Mr Speaker, I thank you for allowing me to speak so early and for giving me the opportunity to participate in this debate and to thank Rose from the bottom of our hearts.