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Back to Westminster but the fear is there

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

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SOUTH Down's MP Margaret Ritchie returned to Westminster yesterday (Monday) with the horror of the deadly terror attack still fresh on her mind.

The world watched on in horror last Wednesday as a terrorist attack unfolded on Westminster Bridge, and continued into Parliament Square and the grounds of the Palace of Westminster.

The attacker, Khalid Masood (52) drove a car into pedestrians on the pavement along the south side of Westminster Bridge and Bridge Street.

Four people died following the incident, including an unarmed policeman who was stabbed. Also killed was the attacker who was shot by armed police. More than 50 people were injured.

And although Ms Ritchie has returned to Westminster for normal business representing South Down, she says following the attack she did not want to return.

“However, I can't feel like that and the people of South Down have elected me and I have a job to do."

Ms Ritchie, who had been in Westminster attending to parliamentary business at the time of the attack, explained what happened inside the building.

She said: "It all kicked off around 2.40pm and we were heading over to the main building to vote and to do that you have to go through a tunnel.

“When we came out of the lobby and into the main chamber I noticed that the door keepers had slammed the doors shut and that was most unusual."

“We were told that there had been a major incident and that we were in lockdown and I had no means of communication with me."

Ms Ritchie and her colleagues were evacuated to Westminster Hall where they spent a number of hours in lockdown.

Police also arrived to search Parliament buildings in case the attacker had an accomplice.

“We were in the same location for four hours and were probably a lot safer than those outside.

“If we had of been out two minutes sooner we might have seen a lot more. Of course there were some MPs that had seen what happened.

“The staff from nearby hospital, St Thomas' were on the scene almost straight away and our thoughts were with the door keepers and staff in the house too and the Deputy Speaker Lyndsey Hoyle, who was negotiating with police throughout.

“Our first thoughts were with those who had lost their lives and also with those who had been injured and that they would be returned to full health," she said.

Ms Ritchie, who described last Wednesday's events as "catastrophic," said it was an eerie experience after she was released onto the streets to return to her hotel.

She continued: "The roads were all closed off and I was due to come home that night and had to stay for another day. The walk to my hotel which normally takes me five minutes, took me 20 minutes that day and everything was very dark and eerie. It was a shock to the system that an attack had taken place and we were so close to it.

“And although I don't like to think about it, the gates of the attack are the ones that I would normally go through in the mornings when I am working in Westminster.

“Following the attack people were joining together to help one another and there was a sense of togetherness, even though they were under attack and London was under siege."

And although Ms Ritchie returned to Westminster yesterday evening for normal business, she says following the attack her initial thoughts were that she did not want to return.

She continued: "However, I can't feel like that and the people of South Down have elected me and I have a job to do.

“Following the attack the support from my family and friends has been tremendous. I do not want anybody to have to go through that again but I am glad that I am able to continue my job in Westminster.

“I would like to thank the police, security staff, door keepers; other Members of Commons staff and the Deputy Speaker, Lyndsey Hoyle who were supportive, helpful and ensured our safe exit."

 

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