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Labour MP pays tribute to south Armagh roots in maiden speech

South Armagh man Conor McGinn, the son of former Sinn Fein councillor Pat McGinn delivered his maiden speech as Labour MP for St.Helen’s North to the House of Commons last week,  paying his respects to his County Armagh roots with a reference to the renowned folk song “The Boys of County Armagh.”

Mr McGinn clinched victory for the Labour party when he was successfully elected as MP for the St. Helen’s North constituency on Merseyside during last month’s Westminster elections. The Bessbrook native had made a name for himself in political circles since moving to London as an 18-year-old to attend university.  Joining the Labour party soon after, he quickly rose through the ranks and was among the youngest ever council candidates at the age of 21.

Addressing the House of Commons last Monday as the new Labour MP for the St.Helen’s North constituency, Mr McGinn pledged to “fight every day” for his community in St. Helen’s, “championing jobs and investment, standing up for the most vulnerable, and always defending the interests of our area.”

Following with a nod to his south Armagh roots, the Labour MP continued,

“I do not wish to confuse you or the House, Mr Deputy Speaker. I can see from the puzzled look on some faces that there is bewilderment at this strange St Helen’s accent, which sounds remarkably like the dulcet Ulster tones that are more associated with Northern Ireland Members.

“There is a song called “The Boys from the County Armagh”, which contains the lines “My heart is at home in old Ireland, In the County of Armagh.”

“I am one of those boys, and mine is, but if I might be allowed a somewhat metaphysical addition to the lyrics, I would say that my heart, along with my head and my feet, is also at home in the north-west of England, in the constituency of St Helen’s North.”

Paying tribute to those who have played key roles in the peace process in Northern Ireland, Mr McGinn added,

“If we are to describe generations as children of a seminal figure or defining events, I am most certainly a child of the peace process. The changed relationship between Britain and Ireland, and the end of the terrible conflict that caused so much pain to the peoples of these islands, have afforded me opportunities that were denied to many who came before me.

“I am in debt to all in the House and outside it who have, through their sacrifice, courage and leadership over many years, helped to build peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. I do not wish to disrupt the etiquette of the House, but I hope that I may be allowed to call them all my honourable friends.

“Where previously there were suspicion and mistrust, today there are friendship and co-operation between the United Kingdom and Ireland. There is no longer any contradiction in being Irish and British, and having feelings of loyalty and affinity to both countries.

“The contribution made by the Irish in Britain to society here has helped to make that possible. It is valued and respected, and has helped to make this the great nation that it is. I hope that, in keeping with that tradition, I can make my own contribution through membership of the House of Commons.”

The Labour MP ended by affirming his commitment to representing his constituents, vowing to keep his “promise” to the people of St. Helen’s North that he will do his best for them.