Colum Eastwood pays tribute to ‘great friend’ and ‘champion of the underdog’ Tony Lloyd

Colum Eastwood has described his ‘great friend’ Tony Lloyd as a ‘champion of the underdog’ and spoken of enjoying a few pints with him in Derry a few months ago.

He said the late Labour MP, who died from cancer aged 73 on January 17, was someone ‘we could all learn from and someone I absolutely looked up to’.

The Foyle MP said: “He was a great friend of mine from his time as the shadow Secretary of State for NI. I was a newbie in this place in 2019, and he helped me to navigate the corridors and the strange rules that govern this place.”

Mr. Eastwood spoke of his service as shadow Secretary of State during the build up to the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement in 2020.

“In the numerous meetings that I attended with Tony and representatives of other political parties in Northern Ireland, there was not much tolerance and restraint on display, but he was there to calm us all down,” said the Foyle MP.

Mr. Lloyd had a longstanding interest in Ireland, said Mr. Eastwood, who spoke of enjoying a few pints with him in Derry recently.

“I was delighted to host him in Derry a few months ago for a few pints in a local hostelry, where we had great craic and told great stories, and to see him again in the Strangers Bar for a pint just before Christmas—sometimes we actually met without having pints,” he said.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell joined tributes and spoke of getting to know Mr. Lloyd when he returned to Westminster after a stint as Mayor of Greater Manchester.

He spoke of Mr. Lloyd meeting victims of the Troubles at his request.

"Tony came to me and said, ‘I will meet them, Gregory.’ I said, ‘Thank you very much, Tony.’

“I arranged a meeting, which was the first time I had been in close proximity to Tony in a meeting with a small group of people, as opposed to in the Chamber.

"Initially, I felt deeply touched by his empathy, how he listened to the trauma of many people who had suffered at the hands of terror, and how he very calmly and patiently responded to each and every person.

"I deeply appreciated that, but what struck me even more was that after he finished his term as Labour Front-Bench spokesperson for NI and he no longer had that responsibility, one day he sat behind me in the Chamber, tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Gregory, I would like to meet those people again.’

"He did not have to, he did not need to, but he did. Again, he showed and demonstrated his empathy.

“In preparation for these few words, this morning I was reminded of how we should be reminded of all our mortality at this occasion. As the old book says: ‘What does God require of us? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.’”

Mr. Eastwood said: “I want to extend our sympathy and love to Tony’s family and friends, and to all who loved him. On behalf of the people I represent on our island, I say, ‘Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam’. May he rest in peace.”