Former Deputy Premier Cartwright DeCouto dies
Ann Cartwright DeCouto, a former Deputy Premier and Minister under the United Bermuda Party, has died at the age of 71.
The veteran politician and lawyer was known for her tenacity as Minister of the Environment, holding her ground in 1990 when she enforced a ban on fish pots that was highly unpopular — but ultimately revived the island’s flagging fish stocks.
As Minister of Social Services in the mid-1980s she oversaw Bermuda’s first responses to the HIV epidemic, as well as the commissioning of a new prison to replace the ageing Casemates.
Mrs Cartwright DeCouto also took a strong stand against the independence referendum put forward by then Premier Sir John Swan.
In 1994, she resigned from Cabinet because of it, telling this newspaper: “In the Cabinet you’re either in the boat and go along with the consensus, or you get out of the boat.”
She also took a stand against the move to bring the McDonald’s franchise to the island, bringing the Prohibited Restaurants Act to Parliament. She left politics in 1998.
The wife of the late Roderick DeCouto, Mrs Cartwright DeCouto lived by Grape Bay but represented the voters of Pembroke West Central.
This morning’s session at the House of Assembly began with a minute’s silence in honour of Mrs Cartwright DeCouto.
Michael Dunkley, the Premier, said in a statement: “I wish to pay tribute to the life of a true public servant, a fearless advocate and a woman of high ideals and principles.
“I’m sure that all honourable members are saddened to learn of the passing of Ann Frith Cartwright-DeCouto who served in this House from 1983 until 1998 and was a Minister in the UBP Governments of that time. Most notably, Ann’s name became synonymous with her 1990 policy banning the use of fishpots in Bermuda. To say it was controversial would be an understatement but ‘the lady was not for turning’. She took a stand on principle and armed with the courage of her convictions she faced down loud condemnation from many quarters.
“In spite of this she exemplified the qualities one would wish for in a political colleague: strength, principle and a razor sharp wit. First and foremost Ann’s loyalty was to the people of Bermuda and in every stand that she took, even contrary to the interests of her own party, she was guided by that ideal. After the long and bitter fight over proposed franchise restaurants in Bermuda, a case that went all the way to the Privy Council, Ann simply said ‘it was the right thing to do and in the best interests of Bermuda’.
“She was formidable in this House and came prepared for every debate and did not suffer fools gladly. But she was forged in an era of less personal politics and counted among her personal friends, members of the Opposition who opposed her policies tooth and nail. In her characteristic, unchanged Bermudian vernacular, she could often be found holding court in the coffee room with the likes of the late Dame Lois Browne-Evans and LF Wade who at varying times sparred across the aisle with her over some legislative matter.
“Ann Cartwright DeCouto distinguished herself not only in public service but was an authority on the family law of Bermuda and many a divorcee raced to her chambers to make sure they got to her first and certainly before their soon to be former spouse did. Less public but equally as dedicated was her commitment to her family.
“She was wife, mother and matriarch, bringing the same love and strong principles of her public life to her home and family. As we reflect on her life and the significant role she played in the formation of this modern Bermuda, let us who serve now and discharge the solemn duty of leadership in the name of the people stay true, as she did to the oath we all swear: ‘to do right by all manner of people, without fear or favour, affection or ill will; so help me God.
“May her family find comfort at this difficult time and on behalf of the whole House, the Government and people of Bermuda, I offer my sincerest condolences to her family.”
The Progressive Labour Party also extended its condolences to the family and friends of Mrs Cartwright DeCouto, stating: “Mrs Cartwright DeCouto dedicated a significant portion of her life to representing the constituents of Pembroke West Central and served as a Minister of the Environment and as Minister of Social Services.
“We thank her for her service to the community, and we wish her family the best during this most difficult period.”
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