Three veteran Parliamentarians received a diplomatic medal of honour from the Salvadorean ambassador for their actions 36 years ago in nominating Archbishop Oscar Romero for the Nobel Peace Prize.
MPs, lords, bishops, priests and representatives of charities were among those who gathered in the state rooms in Speakers House to witness the presentation of the medals by ambassador Werner Romero to former Labour MP Kevin McNamara, Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley and Lord Eric Avebury.
The three men helped to get 118 signatures of MPs,Peers and others on a letter to the Nobel Committee in Oslo nominating Archbishop Romero for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. The Archbishop did not receive the prize but the nomination helped raise the profile of what he was doing in El Salvador to confront the killing and human rights abuses. The archbishop was shot dead in March 1980, whilst saying mass.
Lord Avebury recalled going on a delegation in 1978 that included Bottomley to tell archbishop what was happening. He recalled how the murder of Father Rutillio Grande in March 1977 had set off the murder by death squads of priests across the country.
Julian Filochowski, chair of the Romero Trust, recalled how the Nobel Prize initiative, followed on a decision of the then Labour Government to cancel the sale of second hand armoured vehicles to the Salvadorean military. “The signatures were collected at the October 1978 party conferences thanks to the largely super-human efforts of Kevin McNamara at the Labour event in Blackpool, even managing to cajole trade union leaders, Jack Jones, Joe Gormley and Hugh Scanlon to sign up too, and of Peter Bottomley at the Conservative conference in Brighton,” said Filochowski
Among those present were Baroness Shirley Williams, Lord David Alton, Baroness Nuala O’Loan, Emeritus Bishop of Hallam, John Rawsthorne, former Labour MP Clare Short, and current Labour MPs Rob Flello and Angela Eagle.