I wish to make a number of remarks in relation to the passing of Ivan Davis, a former Member. The former Ulster Unionist Member for Lagan Valley, Ivan Davis OBE, sadly passed away on Friday 13 March. As his funeral service was taking place at the same time as the plenary sitting last Monday, I agreed with the Ulster Unionist Party that it was appropriate to delay tributes to Ivan until today. I want to thank personally Robbie Butler, the Ulster Unionist Party Whip, for his full cooperation in this matter.
While we came from different political perspectives, I always found Ivan to be courteous in all our dealings, and he was someone with whom you could certainly do business. His passing follows other losses of late of Members who served in that first Assembly and who, many would say, were courageous in doing so. In what are already very sobering times, that gives additional cause for reflection.
We extend our sympathies at this difficult time to Ivan's wife Betty and his children Allyson, Hayden and Gareth.
Before I invite Members to pay their tributes to Ivan, I put on record and extend the House's condolences to Mike Nesbitt, whose mother Brenda passed away on Saturday 14 March.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your kind words. It is an honour for me today, even briefly, to pay respect on behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party and the Assembly to the late Ivan Davis OBE. Along with the OBE, Ivan was a freeman of the city of Lisburn, something of which he was very proud. He sadly left us on 13 March 2020 — peacefully in hospital, and for that we are grateful. As you said, Mr Speaker, Ivan was the much-loved husband to Betty and father of Allyson, Hayden, Gareth and the late Alvin. He was also a devoted grandfather and great-grandfather, and our thoughts are very much with those people at this time.
Ivan was first elected to political office in 1973, one year after I was born. Some of us newbie politicians may think that the decisions that we make today and have had to make in recent months have been difficult: they have, but, when I cast my mind back and think about people like Ivan, who, when this country was imploding violently, stepped up to the podium and, at great risk to them and their families, sought to serve their community. For that, Ivan, we say, "Thank you".
Ivan was a proud unionist, a proud working-class guy and a devoted family man. Thankfully, I did not need to google any of that; I know that because I lived where Ivan lived. Ivan lived in the community that he served. He raised his family in the Roseville estate in the Low Road, Lisburn. In 1987 and to my delight, he moved from the Democratic Unionist Party to the Ulster Unionist Party and quickly became a community champion who seemed to know everyone. He was able to fix any problem that was brought to him, and he gained great respect and admiration across the political field that will be shared by many, including you, Mr Speaker, today. For that, Ivan, we say, "Thank you".
At Ivan's funeral, a tribute was made by Lord Trimble. He and John Hume are known as the architects of the Good Friday Agreement, and it was with a sense of local, Low Road, Lisburn pride that I learnt of his role and the support that Ivan gave from the Benches of the Ulster Unionist Party in the design and delivery of what, we now know, brought an end to our Troubles and helped to pave the way for peace in Northern Ireland. For that, Ivan, we say, "Thank you".
Finally, though — I did learn this from Google — when I was made Chief Whip a number of months ago, I felt a great sense of achievement and pride that that wee working-class guy from the Low Road was Chief Whip of the Ulster Unionist Party, but that self-satisfaction was short-lived. I merely follow in your footsteps, my friend, and pick up the baton as you did before me when you held that role. If I can carry even half the reputation that Ivan Davis had, I will be doing fine. For all that you did and all whom you served, Ivan, I say, "Thank you".
I have known Ivan Davis since 1973 when my father and Ivan were first elected to Lisburn Borough Council, which later became Lisburn City Council. Ivan was a true gentleman through all the time that I knew him. As Mr Butler pointed out, Ivan left the DUP in 1987. That was largely due to one particularly difficult individual, and we deeply regretted the loss of Ivan. Ivan was a fantastic community constituency worker. That was reflected in the old area D of Lisburn council, when he received some 3,700 votes in the 1981 election. That was more than three times the quota. It demonstrated the guy's individual popularity. He was elected to the council for 38 years in total.
Over the past number of years, I would have called with Ivan. One thing that he rebuked me for was that, in 2017, I did not call round to get my nomination paper signed by him. He had signed it for a number of years previously, despite the fact that he was a member of the Ulster Unionist Party. That was a demonstration of the friendship that existed between Ivan and me. One thing on which he reflected regularly was his imprisonment with my father for their protest against the Public Order Act 1986, when they walked from Smyth Patterson's in Lisburn to the police station on the road in defiance of that Act. They would not pay the fine and ended up being imprisoned for several days together. Ivan often reflected on that experience and had many a chuckle about it.
Ivan was a really decent guy, a really decent individual. He will be truly missed. One thing that I will say about Ivan is that, although he stood down from the council in 2011, he still provided huge support to many communities in Lisburn thereafter. He turned up to many of their events. He still engaged in a way in which many public representatives do not engage with their communities. Every year, the Lisburn Assessment and Resource Centre holds a fantastic event where the learning-disabled community has a night together: Ivan was always there. We will miss his friendship and community spirit. He has delivered much not just for the community in Lisburn and Lagan Valley but for the people of Northern Ireland.
I did not know Mr Davis, but, on behalf of Sinn Féin, I add our condolences to his family, friends and, indeed, former colleagues. I have said in the Chamber often that, regardless of our political differences, I have huge respect for anybody who serves the public in elected office. We pass on our sympathies.
On behalf of the SDLP and, in particular, my party colleague Pat Catney, who worked across a range of community projects with Ivan Davis, I extend our sincere condolences to his wife, extended family and, indeed, his party colleagues. These are difficult times for us all, but, after so many years together, the loss of a father and husband who was, there is no doubt, a guiding hand and presence in the family home, must be acute for them at this time. I extend our condolences on behalf of the SDLP.
On behalf of the Alliance Party, I add to the condolences that have been expressed. I did not know Ivan Davis, but I knew that he had a long record not just here but particularly in local government. As has been outlined, he was a freeman of the city. In better times, I had the opportunity to visit Wallace Park to do the park run, and I noticed that the pavilion is named after him. That reflects the esteem in which he is held in the community and the contribution that he made to sports groups in the city of Lisburn. Today, we remember his passing and the contribution that he made to communities and society generally.
I did not know Ivan to the same extent as my colleague Edwin Poots did, nor did I have the history that his family did with the Davis family. I first met Ivan on a school tour in Parliament Buildings shortly after the Belfast Agreement was signed. Ivan had been elected for Lagan Valley with his colleague Billy Bell of the Ulster Unionist Party. My school principal was an avid Ulster Unionist. Of course, it was that party who provided the tour. He was interrogated by a group of students who were not really that way inclined, and I was one of them. After that meeting, Ivan said, "Paul, you will be here with me some day". I said, "Well, I hope so, but I might take your seat", because I was after representation at that time. Ivan always engaged with me in very good humour.
I served with Ivan when I was a councillor on Lisburn City Council. Ivan was always a very steady, consistent individual. He was gracious and mannerly, and he worked across all the parties with that type of approach. Ivan was unique in that you would never have seen him in Lisburn without him wearing his suit. Until very recently, in any public appearances that he made, he was always in a shirt, tie and a jacket. I am not sure whether he would appreciate that his replacement in the Assembly does not adhere to the same dress code when he is out in Lisburn, but Mr Davis was always very well turned out.
Ivan's working-class roots have been mentioned. Many's the public group AGM that I attended, even within the last 12 months, Ivan was there providing advice to those community organisations that he continued to support long after he was an elected Member.
Ivan also had a museum of newspaper articles from the 'Ulster Star'; he obviously kept every edition. He was able to produce what had been said 20-plus years ago. He had a fantastic ability to recall previous statements that people had made and what they were now saying.
I offer my condolences to his wife, Betty, and to the wider family on the loss of Ivan.
The late Ivan Davis was a man whom I had the honour of knowing for over 40 years. I found him, at all times, whether in agreement or disagreement with him, to be as he is being described today: a true gentleman.
Ivan personified what it was to be a community politician. He was "Mr Lisburn" for many years, and the torch that he carried for that city always came first. Within the community, he was undoubtedly the go-to man, from the mundane to right above that when people had problems. It earned him, quite properly, a remarkable reputation as a community and political representative. He served in all the various fora that we have heard about.
I last saw Ivan at a disabled police officers' event. That was typical of Ivan: even though he had retired, he sustained an interest on behalf of such a variety of community interests. There he was, and we had a good chat and look back over some old times.
When I was first in this House, from 1982-86, I was the Chief Whip of the DUP group, and Ivan Davis was the assistant Whip. I will not say that I taught him all that he knew, but he did follow my example of leaving the DUP
so maybe I did. He was a very personable and honourable man, and he will be much missed, but primarily within his family. To his wife, Betty, and family, I add to the condolences.
While I am on my feet, I convey to Mike Nesbitt our sympathy on the loss of his mother. No matter how long we have our mother, and Mike had his for many decades, the parting is not easy. I am sure that we will all join in conveying that to Mike.