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Dublin: 3°C Sunday 27 September 2020

Cameron calls for 'end to hatred in politics' as Britain mourns murdered MP

A vigil will be held in Dublin tonight in memory of the slain mother-of-two.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER David Cameron has urged greater tolerance in public debate and recalled parliament to pay tribute to slain MP, Jo Cox.

David Cameron and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn this afternoon added bouquets to a massive floral tribute to Cox in the northern village of Birstall, where she was gunned down yesterday.

And with only a week until a referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU, which has split the country in two and sparked fiery debate on both sides, Cameron said it was time to “stand back”.

Jo Cox shooting Source: Danny Lawson

“Where we see hatred, where we find division, where we see intolerance, we must drive it out of our politics and out of our public life and out of our communities,” Cameron said.

Many commentators have questioned whether the killing could be linked to the referendum that has stoked tensions by touching on issues of national identity and immigration.

Britain is reeling from the murder of Cox, a popular 41-year-old mother-of-two in broad daylight at the height of the referendum campaign.

Both sides have halted campaigning as a mark of respect with only a week to go until the knife-edge vote on June 23.

Jo Cox shooting Source: Yui Mok

Dublin vigil

A vigil in memory of Cox will be held in Dublin at 6pm tonight at the Human Rights and Poverty Stone at Custom House Quay.

“This vigil is organised to show our support for Jo’s family, her local community, our fellow democrats and all those who feel particularly affected at this time,” organiser Dan O’Neill said.

We are meeting tonight to show our solidarity and to send the message that love and human rights must always conquer and overcome hate.

Marissa Ryan of Oxfam Ireland said Cox, who previously worked with Oxfam, had been described by colleagues as “a force of nature (and) an inspiring leader who was always positive and brought out the very best in people”.

“She spearheaded Oxfam’s campaign for trade reform and was a passionate advocate for the rights of people affected by humanitarian emergencies including the conflicts in Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Ryan said.

Jo Cox shooting Source: Yui Mok

‘Full of blood’

Cox, a former aid worker also known for campaigns for Syrian refugees, was killed Thursday outside a library where she was supposed to meet constituents in Birstall, just a few kilometres from where she was born.

Eyewitness Hichem Ben Abdallah, 56, told AFP he heard two shots and saw the petite woman on the ground.

“Her face was full of blood,” said Ben Abdallah, who campaigned alongside the Labour politician before she was elected to parliament for the first time last year.

Police arrested a 52-year-old man, named by media as local Thomas Mair. Described as a friendly loner by neighbours, Mair also battled mental illness and allegedly had ties to white supremacists.

“He used to scrub his hands with Brillo pads and nail brushes until they were red raw,” said Stephen Lees, who used to be friends with Mair’s brother.

Jo Cox shooting Source: Yui Mok

Another witness, cafe owner Clarke Rothwell, told British media the gunman had shouted “put Britain first” repeatedly during the attack.

“We don’t yet know the circumstances of this case but there has been an increase in vitriol, I think, in public debate,” fellow opposition Labour Party MP Yvette Cooper told BBC radio.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged British political parties to tone down the debate in the final week.

“The exaggerations and radicalisation of… language do not help to foster an atmosphere of respect,” she said.

Jo Cox shooting Lucy Powell MP, Jeff Smith MP, Paula Sherriff MP and Karen Rawling lay flowers in Birstall, West Yorkshire. Source: Peter Byrne

‘Malicious communications’

Cox, the first British MP to be murdered since Ian Gow was killed by Irish Republican Army paramilitaries in a car bomb in 1990, had complained to police earlier this year about “malicious communications”.

In March, police arrested a man who was given a formal warning but later released. He was not the same man in custody for yesterday’s attack, the police said.

The Times newspaper said police had been considering putting in place additional security for her, with commentators wondering whether all MPs should have extra protection.

US advocacy group the Southern Poverty Law Center said that Mair, who had lived in Birstall for decades, was a “dedicated supporter” of National Alliance, once the primary neo-Nazi organisation in the United States.

The advocacy group said he had spent over $620 (€550) on reading material from the National Alliance, which advocated the creation of an all-white homeland and the eradication of Jewish people.

The centre also said Mair had purchased a handbook with instructions on how to make a gun, noting that witnesses told British media the assailant used a gun which appeared “old-fashioned” or “homemade”.

Unite against hatred

Cox, whose first speech in parliament defended immigration and diversity, lived with her husband Brendan and their two children aged three and five, on a houseboat on the Thames near Tower Bridge.

Jo Cox shooting Source: Danny Lawson

Flowers were laid on the roof of the boat on Friday where they lived and residents paid tribute to her.

As the news of her death broke, Brendan issued an impassioned appeal for unity against hatred.

“She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now,” he wrote.

“One, that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her.”

Before Cox’s murder, opinion polls suggested Britons would likely vote to leave the EU, in a prospect that weighed on financial markets and sent the pound tumbling.

The pound rose with Asian stocks today after the previous day’s selloff, as investors judged the tragedy increased the likelihood of the Remain side prevailing.

Additional reporting: Isabel Hayes

© – AFP, 2016

Read: Suspect in British MP killing ‘quiet loner with ties to extremists’

Read: ‘Your life is turned upside down in minutes’ – Veronica Guerin’s husband on the killing of Jo Cox

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