By tradition in a maiden speech, an MP is supposed to praise his constituency and his predecessor. The new DUP for Strangford Jim Shannon proved he was a traditionalist to the core, giving a name check to almost every town and village in Strangford. He managed a gracious word about Iris Robinson without embarrassment in a list of past members. But in one respect Jim as a trailblazer. As promised, this was the first time that part of a Commons speech was delivered in Ulster Scots. Hansard writers normally check with speakers that they’ve got it right. This time they surely had a supplied text. Jim’s English it must be said spoken at breakneck speed didn’t sound all that different from his Ulster Scots.
One of the things that I wished to speak about in the Chamber was my Ulster Scots. I did get permission to do this, so I hope hon. Members will bear with me.
Thaur is monies a guid thang at A cud sae aboot tha fowk o mi Baille-Wick bot yince an firmaist A coont it a muckle oaner tae spake oot oan thair ahauf in tha Hoose O Commons. Tha Strengfird fowk ir tha satt o tha grun, an in thenkin thaim fer thair support A wud promis thaim at A’ll wrocht an dae fer thaim aa at A caun.”
In this Parliament the SDLP join the DUP on the opposition benches. Sitting on the bench in front of him, Mark Durkan and Margaret Ritchie gave him the odd cheer. He ended :
In conclusion, Winston Churchill is one of my heroes and always has been. He had a good grasp of the English language, and he was a good historian and also a good soldier. He said:
“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
I stand in this place humbled and honoured at the fact that the voters of Strangford have elevated me from the Northern Ireland Assembly to the House of Commons. The Assembly was my beginning, but my election to the House is certainly not the end of the matter. That quote from Winston Churchill reminds me of another of his. I have made it to the end of my maiden speech with no heckling from Irish Nationalists or anyone else, something that I am exceedingly grateful for. I hope this will be the first of many speeches in the House.
Laughter all round.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London