That is very kind, and I am pleased to have accepted that position, as are others in the House.
I am happy to claim St Patrick as my patron saint—let us be honest: how could I do otherwise? I am blessed to live in the most wonderful constituency of Strangford, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the fingerprints of St Patrick can be seen throughout and all over it.
St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born Maewyn Succat to a Christian family in Wales, in Roman Britain, in the late fourth century AD. Shortly before he was 16, Patrick was captured from the villa of his father, Calpurnius, by a group of Irish raiders who took him to Ireland and forced him into slavery. Six years later, he escaped home to Britain, his religious faith strengthened during his time in slavery. Believing he had been called by God to Christianise Ireland, he later returned to Ireland as a missionary.
How wonderful it is to see the beauty of the Union at work within St Patrick’s life—a British man who fell in love with the people, but more importantly whose love for God made him return to the bosom of those who had mistreated him. We all love the story of the little man coming good, and that is the story of St Patrick, a former slave who absolutely changed a nation for God and for good. As my hon. Friend Gavin Robinson said, out there in Central Lobby, where the four nations come together as one nation—the four regions as one—that is our strength. Our strength is in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
St Patrick was a man who made it easy to understand the divine with simple illustrations and who simply wanted people to know more of God and his redemptive plan for us all through Christ Jesus. His dedication to his Lord and his love for the people of this land are something that I hope to attain, too, in the time I am here.
Some may be surprised to see me, an Orangeman, celebrating what has been turned into a green event. That is not my view. I celebrate the story of a man who changed the course of our history. He was neither orange nor green—I agree with what Richard Graham said—but used all means to point to Christ and the hope offered to every man by him. How I wish there were more like Patrick today.