David Cairns had died. I quickly scanned the news sites I have on my iPhone and flicked unto the radio stations, but there was nothing official until the last half hour.
However, there were Tweets from fellow MPs of all parties marking their respects for the 44 year old former Catholic Priest and openly gay Labour member of the House of Commons. He had been rushed to hospital in late March with acute pancreatitis. It did sort of ping on my radar but like so many other political activists there was a campaign to fight and votes to be won. What I did recall in March was that David wasn't that much older than me, a quick search earlier reveals it was a little over 3 years.
He had trained for the Catholic priesthood at Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and then the Franciscan International Centre in Canterbury. He served as priest in Scotland and London before politics took over his life in 1994. He became chair of the Christian Socialist Movement, but was debarred from standing for Westminster due to the House of Commons (Clergy Disqualification) Act 1801 and the Catholic Relief Act 1829 which banned Catholic Priests from being elected. Siobhain McDonagh introduced the House of Commons (Removal of Clergy Disqualification) Bill in 1999which paved the way for Cairns to take the Greenock and Inverclyde seat in the 2001 elections.
He held Government posts as PPS for the Department of Work and Pensions, Under Secretary of State for Scotland (during which time he was given duties in the Northern Ireland Office). But the tributes coming from across the House show the esteem that he was held in many of his colleagues of all political persuasions in the House.
My thoughts are with his partner Dermot, father John and brother Billy as well as his other family members and friends.
David Cairns MP 1966-2011