Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Jared O’Mara, the then Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam, in the House of Commons on 24 July 2018.
Mr Speaker, thank you. In fact, everybody, thank you—you have all been terribly patient.
I am delighted today to finally be able to make my maiden speech as the MP for the constituency where I grew up, Sheffield, Hallam. I was elected a year ago as Hallam’s first Labour MP, but due to mistakes I made when I was young, and for which I am truly sorry as they hurt a lot of people, I have been unable to speak in the House with confidence until now. I currently speak in the capacity of an independent Member. I am also Parliament’s very first autistic MP, as well as having cerebral palsy and other disabilities. This fills me with immense pride. It is an honour for me to have the chance to represent our country’s disabled people in addition to serving my constituents.
I would like to give praise to my predecessor for his admirable and steadfast belief in the value of our membership of the European Union and for his commitment to multiculturalism, both of which I share. He shall be remembered fondly as a hard-working and capable constituency MP, and for that he has my respect.
I may, of course, be biased, but Sheffield, Hallam is quite possibly one of the most beautiful and greenest constituencies in the country. On the cusp of the Peak District national park, it contains districts including Fulwood, Lodge Moor, Ecclesall, Stannington, Wadsley Park Village—where I lived for a number of years—Loxley, Crosspool, Dore, Bradway and Totley. It is home to too many great schools to mention, including the two I went to, Bradfield and Tapton, and we have the world’s second-oldest football club, Hallam FC, who play their home matches at Sandygate Road.
On the subject of sport, our schools and villages have given rise to some of the nation’s greatest sports people, including Joe Root, Michael Vaughan, Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, the best right back in world football Kyle Walker—even though I am an Owl and he is a Blade—and gold medal-winning Special Olympian Nathan Hill.
My constituency gets unfairly typecast as one of the least diverse and most wealthy in the north, yet I have had the privilege of meeting and speaking to people from all walks of life in Hallam in this past year, be it our sizeable student community, people from humble beginnings and blue-collar professions—much the same as my own background—successful white-collar workers, academics and business people, inspiring and compassionate representatives of our 300-strong Jewish community, the many graceful and civic-minded British Muslims, or the plethora of bright young people from our local schools, who have impressed me no end. Hallam is in fact the epitome of multiculturalism, as is my city of Sheffield as a whole, and I am very proud to call it home.
In my constituency and my city, I have also met many wonderful Christian people. Indeed my parents, who have been at my side through thick and thin, are Christians themselves. While I consider myself a man of science and more aligned with atheism and humanism, I have the utmost respect for all religious people, and I feel specifically that we can all learn from the teachings of Jesus. He was a man who forgave those who truly repented, and he shared my belief that our utmost human priority should be helping those who are the most disadvantaged and vulnerable amongst us—chiefly, our poor and underprivileged, our senior citizens, our children, people with disabilities and illnesses, and people who want to find the right path again after making mistakes.
I ask my constituents, all parties in the House, and everyone in the country at large to join me now in prioritising those principles, and I thank Members very much for listening to my speech. I promise that I will do my utmost to help all those who are in need of help in my constituency, and to champion the cause of equality. When I return to Parliament in September, I shall do so with renewed vigour and an unwavering commitment to social justice. I look forward to being the best MP that I can possibly be.