Collegiate, compassionate and charming

Created by Stephen one year ago

I was very sorry and saddened to hear about James' passing. 

I only had a few brief conversations with him and he couldn't have been more of a gent whenever we spoke. A genuinely lovely man who seemed so interested in other people when he met them.

Each subsequent time I met James I saw more of the side of him that people are highlighting. The first time (and photo) is from a fundraiser in central London when he was NI Secretary.

The second time we spoke was on a flight from London to Belfast (as he was surrounded by armed close protection officers!), and he remembered speaking to me from the previous time. I was grateful for the brief conversation we had about Gaelic Football, travelling to Ireland and his work at NI Office. It is clear he was a friend of Northern Ireland, and deserves credit for his diligent negotiation skills in laying the groundwork for Stormont to be resurrected later in 2020.

The next, and final time we met was at 2018 party conference in Birmingham when he was Communities Secretary, and I was working with the party's press office. His Spad and our mutual friend Peter went out of his way to introduce us both again, and I was again struck by how jovial James was and how generously he made time to have a nice chat while on his way to his next thing.

He would be the type of person anyone interested in politics would love to work for, and the person lots of people would be wanting to say hello to at conference. I'm sure his presence was missed in Manchester this year.

I liked Stephen Hammond's description of James as "collegiate, compassionate and charming" - three fantastic qualities to embody in any walk of life, never mind in politics. Ian Paisley Jnr also hit the nail on the head when he said James lived his life well, dynamically, upright and in a way noticed by everyone around him. 

I recognise the qualities that his friends, colleagues and family have highlighed in their tributes, and my thoughts are with them.

Rest in peace James.