Tributes to Her Majesty The Queen, Elizabeth II
Mr Speaker: Tá fáilte romhaibh uilig. [Translation: You are all welcome.] Members will have been saddened to learn of the passing of Her late Majesty the Queen. I therefore considered it appropriate to invite Members to gather here today so that we might have an opportunity to pay our tributes and offer condolences.
I acknowledge the presence at today’s event of the Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris, who is in the Public Gallery. You are very welcome.
Before I invite Members to pay respects, I will make my own tribute to Her late Majesty.
It is with sadness that Members gather today to mark the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. As the reaction since her death has shown, Queen Elizabeth had a huge reputation across these islands and internationally for her devotion to public duty and a combination of a profound sense of dignity and sense of humour. In an Assembly of different voices and alternative perspectives, I want specifically to recognise today that this is a sorrowful time for unionist colleagues in the Chamber and all those of a British and unionist identity. I understand that you feel the loss of Queen Elizabeth deeply and personally. It is important that you in particular have the opportunity to share your memories here today.
The respect for Queen Elizabeth also went wider in our society, however, and she was held in high regard by many, particularly given the significant leadership that she contributed to making political progress here. It is hard for me to grasp all the change that has occurred since Queen Elizabeth came to the throne in the year that I was born. A lot has happened since then. At the start of her reign, however, it was rare for a woman to be in a position of leadership. By its end, women have now held most senior public offices, although much more progress remains to be made.
In 1953, many families got a television for the first time for her coronation. Many are now watching the events since her passing on their phone. She began with closed meetings with Winston Churchill, as her first Prime Minister, and she ended with millions watching her share marmalade sandwiches with Paddington Bear. She responded to the times, and I need say nothing further about that.
In 2002, on one of her three visits to Stormont, she visited Parliament Buildings to mark her golden jubilee. Speaking in the Great Hall, she set out the vision for the Assembly to meet the aspirations of both those who are proud to be British and those who are proud to be Irish. In the same speech, she also accurately observed:
“Life has never been straightforward here”.
The times that have passed since have proven that she was right.
Tomorrow, I will deliver a message of condolence to King Charles on behalf of the Assembly at Hillsborough Castle, and I will have more to say at that time about Queen Elizabeth’s contribution to reconciliation. I am sure that many Members will make reference to that this afternoon, including to her historic visit to Dublin. For today, let me recognise that she was no mere figurehead and routinely sought to be briefed in order to develop a deeper understanding of many issues of the day. She made a point on several occasions of acknowledging the weight and complexity of our troubled history across and between these islands. In her speech in Dublin Castle, she put an emphasis on:
“being able to bow to the past but not be bound by it.”
I will add that we must learn from the past but not repeat it.
In the last 18 months of her life, Queen Elizabeth experienced the sorrow of the loss of the Duke of Edinburgh and the celebrations for her historic platinum jubilee. Her death marks the end of an era, and it is right that we mark it here in the Chamber today. Amidst all the formalities of the events over past days, however, and in the time ahead, let us be mindful that a family is in mourning. On behalf of the Assembly, I express our sympathies to the family of Queen Elizabeth, who have lost a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam. [Translation: God rest her soul.] May she rest in peace.
I will now invite party leaders to pay their tributes and will call Members as they rise in their place. I encourage Members to be brief, as I want to accommodate all who wish to speak before I conclude proceedings in and around 2.30 this afternoon. When tributes have concluded, as a mark of respect, we will have a minute’s silence. Members will then be welcome to join me in signing the book of condolence in the Great Hall.
Mrs O’Neill: On behalf of Sinn Féin, I extend our condolences on the death of Queen Elizabeth II, whose sorrowful loss is felt deeply by her family and by many people across our society, particularly those of a unionist and British tradition, who, with great pride and devotion, hold Queen Elizabeth and the royal family very dear. Her life and legacy will be fondly remembered by many people around the world. I think that everybody will agree that it was a mammoth achievement to have marked 70 years of dedicated public service to the British people when she celebrated her platinum jubilee earlier this year.
Today I wish to record the value and the respect that I place on the significant contribution that Queen Elizabeth made to the advancement of peace and to reconciliation between the different traditions on our island and between Ireland and Britain during the years of the peace process. It is appropriate that this be rightfully recognised in the Chamber today. I recognise that she was a courageous and gracious leader. When the late deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and I met Queen Elizabeth in Belfast in 2012 during her diamond jubilee and thereafter at Windsor Castle during the state visit of the president of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, in 2014, her warmth, her kindness and her unfailing courtesy towards us were appreciated.
The important symbolism of those encounters on both sides was understood and was designed to positively show leadership and, in a practical way, give example towards reconciliation. They were pointing to the peaceful future overwhelmingly endorsed by the people through their expressed support for the Good Friday Agreement, while acknowledging the regrettable divisions and tragedies of the past. Doing so was an acknowledgement of the substantial differences between our continuing and equally legitimate political aspirations. She made real efforts in good faith to build relationships with those of us who are Irish and who share a different political allegiance from that of her and her Government and who wish to exercise our right to self-determination based on consent to achieve reunification and a shared island for all.
There is an onus on all of us in politics and in public life but also the whole community to follow her example and strengthen the bonds of friendship that will bring people and communities together. For far too long, we have lived back to back, and we must do more to start living side by side by building trust and showing mutual respect. As the incoming First Minister-elect of the Northern Ireland Executive, I will take every opportunity to extend the hand of friendship and renew the spirit of cooperation with the British King, Charles III, and the people and traditions, British and Irish, that he and I proudly represent. When I met him in County Cork in 2018 alongside our Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald TD, we discussed the evolving relationships between Ireland and Britain and how reconciliation must be at the centre of all that we do as we move forward in these changing times.
The passing of Queen Elizabeth II truly marks the ending of an historic era in our lifetime. I sincerely acknowledge the sorrow and the huge sense of grief and loss that many, many people will feel at this time right across our community and, of course, in the House today — elected representatives and the workers here in the Assembly Building and across the public service and the Civil Service. I offer my sympathies and condolences to you all and do so in true friendship. May she rest in peace.
Mr Lyons: No tribute or eulogy, however smooth or eloquent, can do justice to the life and reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Since the news of her death last Thursday, many people in Northern Ireland, across the United Kingdom and throughout the world have felt deep sorrow at the passing of someone the like of whom, as has often been said, we will never see again. Some have even confessed to being taken aback by just how sad they feel about the passing of someone whom they had never met. I believe that the great sadness that has been so evident across the country exists because we are beginning to realise what it is that we have lost. For so many people, she was the constant, the unchanging presence in all the seasons of our national and public life.
For the last 70 years, she was there — opening Parliament, appointing prime ministers, leading our nation in remembrance, awarding honours to the best of those among us and, for some, even dictating how quickly we ate our Christmas dinner so that we could hear the Queen in time. In an ever-changing world, in times of great national joy and celebration and in times of sorrow, sadness and grief, she was the anchor; one we could look to for stability, continuity and comfort.
In her first radio broadcast, in October 1940, as the Battle of Britain raged in the skies above, the then Princess Elizabeth encouraged the nation by saying:
“We know, everyone of us, that in the end all will be well; for God will care for us and give us victory and peace.”
Eighty years later, she was still encouraging the nation by reminding us that “better days will return” and that “we will meet again”. On both those occasions and countless times in-between, she spoke to us but also had the extraordinary ability to speak for us, reflecting our concerns, our fears and our hopes for a better future. In that respect, she had a unique capacity to bring us together, and, as we witness the national outpouring of grief and love for her, we recognise that, in death, she still unites us.
We have lost our greatest ever monarch, a leader who was remarkable, not just for the longevity of her reign, impressive though it was, but because she was an exemplar of service, sacrifice and devotion to duty to the very end. That devotion to duty was as evident in Northern Ireland as
anywhere else. When Her Majesty visited Northern Ireland for the first time as Queen, she addressed the Northern Ireland House of Commons, saying:
“I assure you that I will always strive to repay your loyalty and devotion with my steadfast service to you.”
That steadfast service to Northern Ireland has been evident throughout her reign, whether through dark and troubling times when she was a comfort to those who were mourning or through the extraordinary lengths that she went to personally to promote forgiveness and reconciliation among and between the peoples of this island.
Of course, that loyalty from the people of Northern Ireland to their Queen was not unique to the early years of her reign nor did it wane as time went on. That devotion from her subjects in Northern Ireland was as strong and, if I may say so, was stronger here than anywhere else. I believe that that was best demonstrated by the rapturous reception that she received in the Stormont estate in June 2012 as part of her diamond jubilee celebrations.
Whether we know it or not, we are all poorer for her passing, and, though saddened, our hearts are also full of gratitude for a life well lived, for a lifetime of service and leadership and for her faith, which guided her, sustained her and shaped her into the person whom we mourn today. Her late Majesty frequently referenced how the teachings of Jesus were the bedrock of her faith and how it brought great comfort to her throughout her life. Her faith now brings great comfort to us as we are reminded that she is with the King of Kings whom she served. She has heard:
“Well done, good and faithful servant!”
We recognise that, first and foremost, there is a family in mourning, and we send our sincerest condolences to those who have lost a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother. We also recognise that this is a time of transition and change. The second Elizabethan era is over, but a new reign begins. We pay tribute to His Majesty for decades of service thus far, and, as he takes on his new responsibilities, our prayer for him is that which is found in our national anthem:
“May he defend our laws, And ever give us cause,
To sing with heart and voice, God save the King.”
Mrs Long: As we draw together today to pay our tributes to Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, first, we remember that, whilst the Commonwealth and this country have lost a monarch, at the heart of all this, a family is grieving the loss of a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, confidante, friend and matriarch. I turn my thoughts first to them today in offering my condolences and those of my colleagues.
When we reflect on monarchy, of course, we acknowledge that there is a range of views on the institution. It is one of immense privilege. However, not everyone who is subject to such immense
privilege gives so much in return. It is a remarkable achievement not just to have served on the throne, as the Queen did, for such a long period but to have done so with such unswerving dedication to duty. To have continued the work to which she was called right to her final hours is a remarkable legacy that she leaves behind.
Her Majesty The Queen managed to transcend that wider debate about the institutions because she personified something that, I think, most people could admire. There was a graciousness, a generosity in how she did her work and a dedication to duty that we can all admire, but there was also a twinkle in her eye and a sense of humour as she went about her royal duties, when she made people feel comfortable in her presence, put them at ease and made them feel that, despite the huge privilege that she had, she was someone who could understand their everyday concerns.
I remember that twinkle in her eye as she worked with James Bond at the beginning of the London Olympics. That sense of fun and the fact that her family found out what had been planned only afterwards speaks to someone who, despite the weight of huge office, managed to maintain a personal sense of enjoyment in the work that she did.
She led the country through times of unprecedented change. The speed of change has been immense. There have been 15 Prime Ministers and countless world leaders. The changes in technology that we have witnessed in that period are remarkable, yet she embodied a constancy at the heart of it all. A sense of peace and calm reigned wherever she went. At the same time, she managed to make nods to modernity, as we saw in the recent CGI with Paddington Bear; something that was touching at the time, but is, perhaps, even more so now. She embraced her live television addresses to enter people’s living rooms in a personal way. Even in her diamond jubilee year, she managed to show that she was not behind the times, yet she was a constant in all our lives, and she will be hugely missed.
For me, her graciousness and generosity were exemplified by two issues that I want to raise about her engagement on these islands. The first was her state visit to Ireland, when she acknowledged that our complex and interwoven lives were often the source of pain to one another. She did it with real grace, as only someone who fully understood personal loss could do. I also think that her meeting with the late deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, and that outstretched hand of friendship, gave permission to those of us in our community who have themselves lost and suffered grief as a result of our complex history to be able to actually start to reconcile one with another and to recognise that we are not enemies on these islands but kith and kin, and that, first and foremost, we should be friends. It is in that graciousness on our contested history and the permission that she has given us to reconcile that I hope will lie her lasting legacy for these islands, because it is important that each of us takes that forward.
It is the end of an era. None of us in the Chamber is likely to witness the like of it again. It also comes at a time of profound change and challenge in society. Therefore, in my concluding words, I want to wish King Charles God’s blessing as he goes forward in the role that he has assumed. I wish for him the same dedication to duty, generosity of spirit, love, support and good counsel as his late mother enjoyed.
Mr Beattie: The Queen is dead. On behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party, I wish to pass on my condolences to the King, his brothers and sister and to the wider family on the death of their mother,
grandmother and great-grandmother — our Queen. What a Queen she was during 70 glorious and, at times, difficult years that heralded a new Elizabethan age, which we never knew we were living through until now.
The Queen reigned through massive political, social and economic change: the decline of the empire and heavy industry; the rise of the Commonwealth; the Cold War; the moon landings; war; terrorism; and the growth of the internet. Throughout those changes and challenges, the Queen remained a constant, creating stability and a national focus. Her Majesty The Queen had a knack of remaining current, accessible and approachable in a changing world. Although she would stand with heads of state, prime ministers, presidents and other kings and queens, she never lost her common, personable touch.
Like many, I met the Queen. I look forward to hearing some of the small, humorous quips that some may raise while we are here today, yet I cannot, because I am deeply saddened by the loss of the Queen. I feel grief, and, as I stand here, many millions of people around the world feel it too. This is not something that I expected. We all knew that the Queen was getting frailer and that this time would come, yet, having watched her just 48 hours beforehand continuing to do her duty, nobody expected it to come so quickly.
I read my oath of allegiance to the Queen as a young soldier aged just 16. I have served beneath the Queen’s colour all my life. My transition from soldier to officer was marked by a royal commission — it is in my Stormont office —that was signed by the Queen. As distant as a royal family could be, the Queen was ever-present in our lives and in my life. I was in uniform on Thursday evening when I heard of her passing.
Her Majesty epitomised service. That service and commitment to reconciliation on this island produced an extraordinary visit to Ireland in 2011. Showing courage, leadership and generosity of spirit, she won the hearts of the Irish people, forging links between the United Kingdom and Ireland as never before —a kinship between these islands that I hope we can rekindle. The Queen understood service. The awarding of the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary and of the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross to the home service battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment, as well as the presentation of colours to the Ulster Defence Regiment, were all done in person and were crafted to recognise service. In shaking the hand of the late Martin McGuinness a year after her visit to Ireland, the Queen knew the symbolism of such an action. Although her family had been directly touched by the Troubles, she knew that such a selfless act would generate momentum to help heal deep wounds, something that we all — young or old — must be thankful for.
Many people do not fully understand a constitutional monarch, yet the Queen explained it best in her own words:
“I cannot lead you into battle, I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else, I can give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.”
Even as the Queen’s health began to fail, we saw that devotion of duty and actions for the greater good of the nation. It was heartbreaking to see the Queen sit alone at the funeral of her husband, to
whom she had been married for 73 years, but she knew that she had to do that for the good of this nation, such was the example that she set.
So often the words of Queen Elizabeth II have comforted a nation in difficult times, and it is with her words that I will finish:
“To be inspirational you don't have to save lives or win medals. I often draw strength from meeting ordinary people doing extraordinary things: volunteers, carers, community organisers and good neighbours; unsung heroes whose quiet dedication makes them special.”
The Queen is dead. Long live the King.
Mr O’Toole: In rising to express sincere condolence of behalf of the SDLP on the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, I am conscious of the deep and real mourning of many in the Chamber, in my constituency, across Northern Ireland, across these islands and, indeed, around the world.
The passing of the Queen is, of course, particularly poignant for those from British and unionist backgrounds, among whom she commanded profound and sincere feelings of loyalty and allegiance and of belonging to something bigger than themselves. Though many of us do not feel the same tie of allegiance, what was remarkable about the late Queen was her ability to win respect and even affection from people from a hugely diverse range of backgrounds. Her sheer length of service and her enduring presence as a public figure through seven decades of enormous upheaval mean that her passing will prompt reflection from virtually everyone. The first British Prime Minister of her reign,
Churchill, was born in 1874, and the final one was born in 1975 — 101 years apart. However, while the Queen’s reign was notable for its length, its most notable achievement in this part of the world came largely in its final decade: as has been mentioned by all the Members who have spoken, her extraordinary contribution to reconciliation on this island and between the islands of Britain and Ireland.
We are all products of history. All of us in the Chamber know how history can weigh on it. When Queen Elizabeth was born in 1926, construction of the Building that we are meeting in today had not yet begun. Ireland had been partitioned just five years before, and the Northern Ireland Parliament was still meeting in Union College in my constituency. King George V, the Queen’s grandfather, was still head of state of Saorstát Éireann, the Irish Free State, and would be for another decade. The role of the Crown in Ireland deeply divided people and, of course, to some extent, still does, but the late Queen Elizabeth’s extraordinary achievement was to use her symbolic role to move positively beyond safe historical positions towards new understandings, new connections and reconciliation. As the living symbol of the Crown, she embodied something on which people in Ireland have historically been deeply divided, but she was able to use that symbolic role to bring people together. As has been pointed out, her state visit in 2011, paying sincere respects at the Garden of Remembrance to people who had fought for Irish independence; her cúpla focail at Dublin Castle; her willingness to engage with the complexity of Irish and British history; and yes, her handshake, which required courage, with the late deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness — those were significant acts that a British monarch in her ninth decade did not need to undertake, but she did.
As I have said, we are all products of history, but we have a choice about how we respond to history. Do we act simply as delegates of a difficult past, or do we build new connections and new
understandings? The example of Queen Elizabeth was to stretch herself, to be generous and to use the symbolic power of her role not simply to command loyalty but to win respect and warmth and to build bridges. Generosity can be contagious.
I am not a monarchist, and it would be disingenuous to pretend otherwise. As an Irish nationalist and social democratic party, we can disagree with the principle of the institution while acknowledging that the late Queen Elizabeth was an exceptional woman and an exceptional monarch. Though I have talked about the large acts of symbolism, for many, from all backgrounds, who met the Queen, which, in Northern Ireland, must, by now, number thousands, a small moment of connection often had a large personal impact. For all those countless acts of small generosity and for the large act of generosity she performed in building bridges on this island and across these islands, her extraordinary legacy is assured.
Our thoughts are with all those mourning: our near neighbours, and people around the world. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis. May she rest in peace.
Mr Allister: Mr Speaker, like others, I begin by placing on record my sincere condolences to the immediate and wider family of our late Majesty who, despite her profile, was to them their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. All of us who have lived and lost in life appreciate the loss that they will be feeling at this very difficult time, accentuated by the fact that, of necessity, it is very much in the public eye.
It is very clear that the sorrow of this nation is palpable, but so, too, is the gratitude for the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The global regard in which our gracious Majesty was held is reflected in the worldwide tributes, many of which rightly focus on her unstinting and unparalleled service.
This place is familiar with the concept of a pledge of office, but the honouring of the voluntary pledge by our late Queen when she was just 21 is unsurpassed in its faithful implementation. I invite anyone — indeed, it would be a good reflective exercise for us all — to measure our promises with our product. When you measure the promise of the young Princess Elizabeth with the life that she lived, there can be no doubt about the fulfilment.
On her twenty-first birthday, in South Africa, she famously said these words:
“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
Has ever a pledge been more fully or more splendidly carried through than that pledge?
Among her many strengths of character was her capacity for empathy and putting everyone whom she met at ease, but hers was not a life immune from burdens and heartache. One such affliction, of course, was the wicked murder of the elderly Lord Mountbatten by the IRA, yet she bore it with great fortitude, generosity and grace, even to the point of having to shake the bloodstained hand of an IRA commander. Shamefully, in this House, there are still those who would seek to justify that and every other IRA murder through the republican lie of no alternative. Happily, Queen Elizabeth was a leader of moral fibre who knew right from wrong. She was not a disciple of moral equivalence or ambiguity. I thank God that she did, indeed, long reign over us.
For the new King, everything will seem different, but the abiding constancy of the monarchy and its centrality to our constitutional arrangements remain. As, of necessity, we step into a new era, I say from heart and voice, God save the King.
Mr Easton: I rise to pass on my deepest condolences to the royal family and to mark, mourn and, indeed, celebrate the life of our sovereign Queen Elizabeth II.
This is such sad news that has affected the whole country. We have lost not only our Queen but our rock and a person who has always been there for us over the past 70 years with her devotion to duty and her people. We owe her such a debt of gratitude, which can never be repaid, and we will never see the likes of her again. Thank you for being that rock that bound us all together.
On her accession to the throne 70 years ago on the death of her father, King George VI, ‘Time’ magazine made her woman of the year, referring to her — we can take a moment now to reflect on the profound nature of these words — as:
“a fresh young blossom on roots that had weathered many a season of wintry doubt”.
I think that we can all agree that, in 70 years, that blossom never faded.
Her late Majesty personified service. Her life was one of service and duty. Her Majesty was the rock that we looked to in times of trouble, and we were never failed. She was a constant presence for many like me and all my life was a living example to follow. She was unique and unsurpassed and is correctly referred to as “Elizabeth the Great”.
Our longest-reigning monarch served with distinction. It is impossible to do justice to her life in the time that is available. Indeed, I fear that words are insufficient, whatever time is made available. Simply saying “Thank you”, however, accurately reflects the gratitude of the nation. We thank you for your unparalleled service, your leadership, your guiding hand and your voice, which had that amazing ability to encapsulate everything that needed to be said in times of joy and sorrow. Your profound faith, so often reflected in the Christmas messages, was a powerful testimony to us all. We give thanks to God for your life, which enriched us all here. Through great change over 70 years, you could facilitate and adapt while maintaining core values and could live up to an exemplary standard that few of us could.
In the manner that her late Majesty would have wished, we proclaim “God Save the King”. Our thoughts and prayers are with King Charles III. Our best wishes are with the royal family, and may God comfort them in the loss of their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
Unique in length of service, dignity and duty, an inspiration to us all, an example to inspire, we give our thanks to almighty God for her life. Our Queen Elizabeth was unique, and we will never see the likes of her again.
Ms Sugden: I am deeply saddened by the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and I offer my heartfelt condolences to His Majesty King Charles III, the royal family and those who knew and loved the Queen across the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and throughout the world.
I loved her, too, and I deeply admired the woman that she was, not necessarily because of her role or the institution she represented but because of her leadership, grace and service to others. The crown on her head was not what made Elizabeth the great; rather, it was the duty that she fiercely upheld for those she served, even in her final days. Queen Elizabeth was our greatest public servant, dedicating her life to others.
Women inspire me in all the roles that they perform as mothers, grandmothers, sisters, wives, friends, public servants, leaders and monarchs. The Queen was all those. It is not the role but the performance. The Queen’s performance was feminine, humble, grateful, diligent and strong.
Queen Elizabeth carried a past legacy into a changing and modern future. However, she remained constant in her stoicism and her ability to relate to and connect with people, and she served as a unifying centre in an age when communication has blurred humanity and political fluctuation unsettles. Her Majesty lived through many generations, and perhaps her greatest gift to us was her counsel through that long experience. We mourn Queen Elizabeth, the woman she was, the values she represented and as the last connection to an era that only memories and historic texts will now recall.
I feel fortunate to have lived when she reigned. I was honoured to meet the Queen in 2016, and I hold that as a great moment in my life. She was warm and kind and curious of a 29-year-old female leader when others were critical. She also spoke to my husband and reminded him of the support that he should offer me, and she advised that he would see very little of me, which felt like a nod to the support that her wonderful husband gave her.
Endings remind us of other endings and losses, especially of those close to us who are no longer here. I think of all those who have lost loved ones in recent years. I lost my parent just under a year ago, and, every day, I struggle with that grief. The Queen’s passing has helped me express my grief, and I expect many others across the country and world feel the same. Although she lived a different life from most, she was born, she lived and she died: she was human. It was, however, her remarkable ability during her lifetime to relate to and lead people that makes us feel so connected to her loss. I take great comfort from Her Majesty’s famous words:
“Grief is the price we pay for love.”
To build upon her words, I am often told that grief does not go away but, rather, becomes an important part of our lives. Our shared grief today is another part of our collective journey. The past days, and the weeks ahead, are significant. We are experiencing a profound moment in history. It feels surreal but very special to be part of.
I look forward to the reign of King Charles III. I was fortunate to meet him too when he was Prince of Wales, and I saw in him his mother’s warmth and curiosity. Since he has become King, I appreciate how he has embraced the nation and his genuine emotion in a world that increasingly feels disconnected and lacking in humanity. As we begin a new era, I hope that he and the world can carry on the values of a great woman. On behalf of the constituents of East Londonderry, I give thanks for the life and values of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. God save the King.
Miss McIlveen: I rise to pay tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II: our Queen, head of state, head of the Commonwealth and Defender of the Faith. Throughout her 70 years on the throne, the
Queen became the embodiment of our national anthem: she was noble; she was gracious; she was certainly long to reign over us; and, in winning our hearts and love, she was victorious.
Although she served as our Queen for 70 years, her public service began much earlier. Her life changed dramatically when her father became King, and, at that moment, as a five-year-old, she became heir to the throne. At 13 years of age, she made her first public speech to address the children of the Empire to give them comfort during the dark days of the Second World War. She, somewhat prophetically, said:
“And when peace comes, remember it will be for us, the children of today, to make the world of tomorrow a better and happier place.”
At 21, Princess Elizabeth made her now famous oath of service, when she said:
“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
As we now know, hers was to be a long life, and she fulfilled that vow to be devoted to the service of this nation.
She was just 25 years old when, on her father’s untimely death, she assumed the mantle of monarch. Her life was one of dedicated, unflinching public service, which she dutifully executed for over 70 years. It was a life played out in public, with every appearance, utterance and facial expression subject to intense scrutiny. She presided over a country that was impoverished by years of bloody world war to see it rebuilt as a modern, vibrant powerhouse. As Queen, she adapted the monarchy to meet the expectations of modern life. She leaves the British monarchy in a much stronger and respected position than it has ever been. She did all of that with an unshakeable faith, without compromising her values as a Christian.
She was perhaps the most famous woman in the world. The death of Queen Elizabeth has made headlines across the globe, resulting in an outpouring of grief in every corner of the world. To see the Brandenburg Gate lit up with the Union flag and Sydney Opera House with Her Majesty’s face, to see the Swiss tribute on the Matterhorn and flowers being laid at sites across the world and to hear world leaders and world citizens pay their tributes and share their memories, it is evident that this was a very special woman.
She was more than just our Queen; she was the world’s Queen. However, she was also a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Her family will feel that personal loss deeply. We were all moved by the words of the new Prince of Wales, Prince William:
“She was by my side at my happiest moments. And she was by my side during the saddest days of my life.”
I pass on my deepest condolences to our new King, King Charles III, and the rest of the royal family. The passing of the Queen is deeply personal to them and will leave a huge void. I pray that the outpouring of goodwill and warmth from the nation and the world will provide them with some comfort. God save the King.
Mr Dickson: I pay tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II with profound sadness but also with remembrance and celebration of a remarkable life.
I was born in the reign of the late Queen’s father, George VI. I have little memory of the coronation; I was a very young child. My first real memory of the Queen is from when she visited Northern Ireland in 1961, landing at Carrickfergus harbour and visiting the castle and Greenisland hospital. Indeed, I was standing with my parents at Greenisland hospital, and that was the day that I caught my first glimpse of the Queen as she waved to the crowds. Little did I know, as an 11-year-old, that I would one day have the privilege of being the mayor of the historic borough of Carrickfergus or, later, of being invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen.
Many here will have personal recollections of meeting or seeing the Queen. For me, it is of being invited as a Winston Churchill Fellow to Buckingham Palace to celebrate 50 years of the Churchill Fellowships, the late Queen being the patron of the fellowship. There, I enjoyed not only an awe- inspiring visit to the palace but an incredible reception, a formal handshake with the Queen and a to- this-day-cherished conversation with her about the Churchill Fellows and a chance to share my memory of her visit to Carrickfergus. My abiding memory is of how, after the formal handshake, she joined some 200 fellows that evening in informal groups, chatting about our fellowships, our topics and where we came from across the United Kingdom and sharing stories about Winston Churchill. She was a gracious host, and we were entertained until late in the evening.
Others here today will reflect on and reference her international influence, her commitment to peace and reconciliation, not least here and across our islands, her steadfast duty and her life of service. I too pay tribute to that life of service, to say thank you and to remember not only with sadness but with a great celebration of her life. My thoughts go out to her family and to our new King. I wish him a long and glorious reign.
“Over more than seven decades, and especially in recent times, you have supported the people of our country with courage, compassion and dedication, demonstrating the highest standards of public service.
You have our enduring thanks and heartfelt appreciation.”
That tribute could be made to Her Majesty The Queen for her service, but it is the citation from when she gave the George Cross to the National Health Service across all four nations not just for its service and dedication for the past 70 years but for its commitment during the COVID pandemic. That was the strength and dedication that she showed as our monarch and Queen through those challenging times. It has often been said in the Chamber with regard to her Christmas message, but also, in April 2020, when she addressed the nation about what was in front of us and what was also unknown. She said:
“I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. And those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any.”
Again, she epitomised the people of this country and across the islands in regard to our response to COVID in an address that was so characteristic and reflective of who she was when she spoke of the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good humour and resolve and of fellow feeling that still characterise this country. She said at that point:
“The pride in who we are is not a part of our past; it defines our present and our future.”
One of the most poignant images of Her Majesty The Queen was of her sitting alone at her husband’s funeral. It was through her faith in Christ, I believe, and knowing where she would be that she finished that public statement by saying:
“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”
I pay tribute to Her Majesty The Queen for a life of long service, dedication and commitment to the people whom she served. I wish our present King God’s richest blessing. God save the King.
Mr Poots: Thank you, Mr Speaker, for organising the tribute today.
As we reflect on Her Majesty The Queen, Elizabeth II, we should reflect on her words. Her Majesty often spoke of her Christian values and how they were her guiding principle throughout her reign. As a follower of Christ, she took the example of Christ. Christ was a servant king, and she gave herself to serving the community. Some people speak of privilege; she saw the privilege of being the people’s servant. She went about that role in a way that won many, many people over to her.
I had the privilege of meeting the Queen on a number of occasions. Most especially, I remember being given the responsibility of showing her around the South West Acute Hospital, which she came to open. Throughout that time, as she met the staff — doctors, nurses, therapists, cleaners, porters, kitchen staff — she spoke to them with grace, compassion, humility and caring. She also did that with the patients, showing them real attention. She did it in a dignified way, with fortitude. Again, she followed Christ’s example of grace, compassion and humility.
She went further, because she did not just meet friends; she met people who would not be assumed to be friends, and she did so as Christ sat down with people whom others criticised him for meeting. She followed his example and met people whom it was difficult for her to meet, as it was difficult for them to do. She did that to build relationships that were broken for centuries and to help to build friendship and peace.
We have been privileged to have a Queen such as Queen Elizabeth II. She has demonstrated the example to every one of us in our lives. She has lived her life well. She has run her race well. As we pay tribute to her and honour her for what she has achieved, we thank God for every remembrance of Her Majesty The Queen. We wish her family our deepest sympathy and prayers, and we pay particular tribute to her son Charles as he takes over the role. As we say goodbye to the Queen, long may the King reign over us.
Dr O’Lynn: I, like all others in the Chamber, was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Her Majesty The Queen, Elizabeth II. The Queen was a true leader, a dedicated public servant and a
dignified figurehead. Her contribution to peacebuilding in Northern Ireland will never be forgotten, and her legacy will echo throughout the generations.
Earlier, we heard from my party leader, who spoke of the twinkle in the Queen’s eye that was matched only by her remarkable gift to enable people to feel comfortable. I want to share a short personal story about how she enabled me to feel comfortable.
In 2019, I was honoured to be the second student in the history of Northern Ireland to be selected to serve as a scholar at — I am now a fellow of — the prestigious institute of Cumberland Lodge, a charity that is owned and led by the Queen. It was in that setting that I first had the pleasure of
meeting the Queen. I was introduced as “Young Patricia O’Lynn, an aspiring politician from North Antrim”. I looked around the room, which seemed slightly uninterested. That was until the chief executive explained that North Antrim was, indeed, the birth land of the DUP and, more importantly, that it was led by the long-standing Ian Paisley. At that point, there was a collective gasp in the room. That was because the enormity and, some would argue, political impossibility of my task had sunk in.
I started to turn red and began to visibly sweat. I think that the Queen could tell that I might have passed out, but, throughout the entire conversation, I looked at the Queen. Not once did she flinch, and not once did she react. She smiled at me and said that she was always fascinated by those politicians who became so disheartened when faced with deceit. She then continued to say, “One must never give up”. For me, that short and simple phrase captures the essence of peacebuilding; it is the essence of public service and the essence of dignity, and it is also, I believe, the essence of her spirit. It is a phrase that we should all endeavour to remember as we seek to create a better Northern Ireland not just for ourselves and our political interests but for each other.
It was Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who said:
“Grief is the price we pay for love.”
Since the passing of the Queen, I have spoken to constituents across North Antrim, from all backgrounds, religious traditions and political affiliations. The common thread throughout our conversations was our collective grief for the loss of the Queen. That tells me how deeply loved she was and still is.
One indisputable fact is that the Queen was a woman of deep faith. She often talked in public about how, when faced with adversity, she would refer to scripture, and so, in seeking to offer some solace to all those who mourn her loss, I turn to words of faith. These words are not from my religious tradition but from a well-known east Belfast Baptist minister, the late Shuggie Emerson. At the funeral of his wife, Nell, Shuggie told the congregation that, yes, grief is indeed the price we pay for love but that, in our grief, we must remember to look for joy and solace because:
“this is not goodbye; it is simply a goodnight, and we will see her in the morning.”
On behalf of the people of North Antrim, I extend condolences to the royal family on this sad occasion. I welcome and congratulate King Charles III and wish him a long, happy and successful reign. May Queen Elizabeth II rest in peace.
Mr Chambers: Our nation is dealing with an outpouring of great sadness at the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, a monarch who we selfishly hoped would endure for ever. The nation is also dealing with the accession to the throne of a new monarch, King Charles III.
As others have said, it can be easy, as we see the many public appearances of members of the royal family attending to their duties at this time, to forget that this is a family in mourning for a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother. Their sadness and grief are no different from the sadness and grief suffered by all families who have to deal with the passing of a loved one. Given the public face that the royal family has, their tears will be shed in private. Those tears will be no less sorrowful nor painful than those that we all shed for the loss of a loved one.
Over the next seven days leading to the state funeral of our gracious and much-loved late Queen, the members of the royal family will be central to all the public events that are part of a state funeral. The example of deep faith expressed and acted out by Her Majesty will help her family to deal with all that they will called upon to do. By the example of the Queen, that faith will undoubtedly have been embraced and shared by those closest to her.
As Father of the House, I suspect that there will be only a few serving in the House, who, like me, can proudly say that the Queen reigned over them for the entirety of her 70 years as monarch. It has been a privilege to have been a loyal subject of Her Majesty for all those years, and I am proud to have had the opportunity and honour to have worn a uniform of the Crown in dutiful service to Her Majesty and the community.
In a very poignant comment about his grandmother, which another Member mentioned, Prince William said that she had been by his side in the saddest of his days and at his happiest moments. As we look back over the years of her reign, we can all echo those heartfelt sentiments of Prince William about the Queen, whom he touchingly referred to as “Grannie”. She was, indeed, a rock to the nation in sad times and an inspiration to us all in times of joy and celebration. Her wisdom and internationally renowned diplomatic skills were beyond reproach. I am confident that our new King will inherit those qualities and bring them to bear for the good of our nation as we move forward.
I give thanks for the many personal and family sacrifices that the Queen made in her efforts to serve our nation and her esteemed Commonwealth, which she held in such high regard. We were, indeed, blessed to have her as our monarch for those 70 glorious years.
During her reign, my constituency of North Down played host to many visits by the Queen and her beloved husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, and provided them with the warmest of welcomes on each occasion. We were thrilled to have Bangor granted honorary city status by Her Majesty as part of her platinum jubilee celebrations. We will miss her deeply. On behalf of those whom I represent, I say this: thank you, your Majesty, for all that you stood for during your long life of service to our nation.
That service is easy to overlook, and it even extended to the years before she was crowned Queen.
In conclusion, I look forward to being a loyal subject of King Charles III. God save the King. Long may he reign over us.
Ms Bunting: Our gracious and glorious Majesty has passed away. I have no words that are sufficiently adequate or eloquent to convey my feelings or those of my constituents in East Belfast at such a time as this and, certainly, none that have not already been said and echoed around the globe.
As a nation, we mourn and grieve her loss. We are shocked, devastated and immensely sad. None of it seems real. Such was the suddenness, it is difficult to absorb that she is gone.
For many of us, she was the only constant that we have ever known. Indeed, it feels like the loss of a family member. We loved, admired and revered her. We will miss her, but how blessed we were to have her as our sovereign lady. She was a shining example for us to emulate and was the epitome of everything British, including the values for which she stood: dedication to duty, faith, freedom, justice and civil and religious liberty to name but a few. She made us proud to be British and feel privileged to be her subjects and part of this, her United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Wise, funny, charismatic, an animal lover, fair, in tune, compassionate, concerned, grounded, forgiving and gracious — the list of her qualities is endless. She was our country’s greatest asset: a living history who reassured and inspired in equal measure and as her nation required. During our lifetime, we watched on as she dazzled at home and abroad and enthralled all who met her with her beaming smile. As has been borne out by the outpouring of tributes from across the globe, we were the envy of the world to have her as ours.
I never had the chance to meet Her Majesty — I always wished and hoped that I would — but that I did not may have been for the best. The closest that I came was during Her late Majesty’s visit to Titanic Belfast for lunch during her diamond jubilee in 2012. She was two tables away, and if I turned to my left, she was directly in my line of sight. I was completely overwhelmed with emotion from the moment that I set eyes on her, and so the crying began. After a while, the conversation between my husband and I went something along the lines of, “Stop crying”, “I can’t”, “Why not?”, “Well, the Queen is over there and every time I look at her, I cry”, “Stop looking at her”, “I can’t. The Queen is over there”. So, completely transfixed and unable to draw my eyes from her, I blubbed my way through the entire afternoon, with all dignity, composure and, indeed, make-up gone, but completely overjoyed that I had even been in her presence. I will never forget that day.
As with all things, there is how we feel and what we know. As we come to terms with our deep feelings about her loss, we may take comfort in what we know. As we learned from her Christmas broadcasts, we know that our monarch was a woman of deep Christian faith, who was familiar with the scriptures and who lived by the example of her Lord and his word and encouraged her nation to do likewise. Thus, we know that she is in heaven with her saviour. We also know that her legacy will live on forever and that our monarchy, through her son and his heir, will go on in seamless transition.
This year, the mystery was finally solved too: we all now know what she kept in her ever-present handbag.
A historic reign has come to an end. This United Kingdom, as we know it, will never be the same again. We know that we shall never see her like again. However, we also know that our new King, Charles III, is a man of vast experience, compassion, warmth and knowledge, and that his whole life has been spent in preparation for what lies ahead. We can be assured that he is more than ready and dedicated to the task, even as he mourns his beloved mother. Our King has given beautiful and emotive speeches in the past number of days. Even in his own time of grief, he has sought to comfort and reassure us, his people. However, central to all the official ceremony is a bereft family. We uphold the royal family today and pray God’s grace, comfort and blessing upon them.
As we move into a new era, still grieving the loss of a remarkable woman who was our cherished Queen, we say in the now iconic words of Paddington Bear, “Thank you, Ma’am, for everything”. In silence, with hearts full of love, sorrow and gratitude, we remember and give thanks. God Save the King.
Mr Blair: I rise to try to, along with colleagues, pay fitting tribute to the late monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and address, if I can, the deep sense of loss and sadness that is felt across these islands and, of course, far beyond. However, first, Mr Speaker, if I may, I will start with a thank you to you, the Assembly secretariat and all the officials involved in ensuring that the Assembly responded swiftly and appropriately when the sad news of the Queen’s passing was received last week.
When I attended the County Antrim proclamation of accession for His Majesty King Charles III yesterday in Castle Gardens, Antrim, I was struck by how poignant the occasion was and that there was such a clear combination of a number of things. The first of those was the respect for the late Queen and the clear sadness at her loss. There was, of course, the witnessing of history and, clearly, a community standing together to look forward and to wish the new King well.
The coming together of community was something that Queen Elizabeth referred to often, and it was obviously of great importance to her. She clearly believed that people, whatever their background, opinion or faith, should respect, help and support each other, and that fits well with her frequent references to forgiveness and reconciliation. It is my hope and, I suspect, the hope of many others that those themes will be carried forward by all in public life in her memory and in honour of her life.
There will be continued mention of the duration and dedication of the Queen’s service, and there should be. The unwavering commitment to her role and to people will be remembered for ever, as will the dignity with which her work was carried out. Hopefully, there will be learning from that resolve for us all.
I close by giving my sincere sympathy to the royal family, royal staff and all those affected by her loss. I add my own genuine “Thank you, Ma’am”.
Dr Aiken: I rise to add my thoughts on the passing of our most gracious sovereign lady, Her Majesty The Queen. I had the honour to meet and be presented to Her Majesty on several occasions. Her sense of humour came across clearly to me when I was commanding the nuclear submarine HMS Sovereign. At an investiture in Buckingham Palace, she asked me about my command. I said that the Sovereign was a pleasure to be captain of but she was now showing her age, creaking a bit in the wrong places and needing an awful lot of tender loving care just to get her going. Her Majesty, with a twinkle in her eye, turned to me and said:
“Commander, I do hope the Sovereign you are talking about is the submarine and not me.”
Several years later, I saw her in a different guise after being presented to her at Windsor Castle at the state visit of the Irish president in 2014. In the throne room that evening, there were over 100 politicians and members of civil society from across these islands: Church leaders, current and ex- Prime Ministers, Taoisigh, Tánaisti, First Ministers, deputy First Ministers and a wide gamut of other politicians from across the political spectrum from ardent loyalists to equally ardent republicans. All, though some would not admit it, were in awe of meeting Her Majesty in such august surroundings.
Through her effortless tact and charm, she brought the assembled throng to respectful order so that
they all heard her speak with passion, empathy, dignity and understanding about our island and about the strong and enduring relationships across all of our islands. That evening, despite the contested and complexity of our shared past, it was felt that there was definite hope for our collective futures.
She, in the words of her speech of welcome and her quiet conversations in the margins with each of us, pointed to a desire to help build a new future together, a shared partnership that would be built on each other’s identities: proudly British, Irish or both. That evening, regardless of what had been in our history, we were all happy to rise and toast Her Majesty and the Irish president.
Much will be said about her legacy. However, the sense of hope and shared understanding that emanated from Windsor Castle in 2014 must surely be what we, as elected representatives of Northern Ireland, should now redouble our efforts to rebuild. As His Majesty takes on the mantle of the monarchy, with all the challenges and complexities he faces, surely it is now incumbent on all of us to give meaning to Her Majesty’s — the late Queen’s — rich example and strive that extra mile and more to make Northern Ireland work for all of us within our proud United Kingdom. God save the King.
Mr Givan: We have lost our Queen, the head of state, the head of the nation, but the royal family has lost the head of its home. They mourn the loss of their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, yet, in this moment of profound personal sadness, they are putting duty first and leading the nation through this time of grief. I offer His Majesty King Charles III and his family my sincere condolences and those of my constituents in Lagan Valley, home of the royal family’s official residence in Royal Hillsborough. We offer Christian sympathy, remembering the royal family in prayer before the throne of grace.
Days after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, our hearts grow heavier still as emotions have stirred, at times overwhelming, when we realise how privileged we have been to have lived through this golden age of monarchy. We hoped that it would go on further still, but now the late Queen is with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, joining with the angels to sing her favourite hymn, ‘Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven’, which contains the words:
“Praise, my soul, the King of heaven; To His feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, Who like me His praise should sing? Praise Him, praise Him,
praise Him, praise Him, praise the everlasting King.”
We thank God for the life of Elizabeth the great. Great not just because of 70 years of reign — the longest-ever serving monarch — but because of a life that was utterly devoted to service, sacrifice and public duty. Throughout her reign, especially at times of crisis, the nation looked to Her Majesty for the unwavering steadfastness that she provided in times of adversity. When all seemed hopeless, she gave hope that better times were ahead. That is true for Northern Ireland. Standing with us in our
darkest hours, we shall be forever grateful for the late Queen’s strength to endure. She knew the pain and sorrow that was felt by many when the royal family were plunged into grief by the IRA’s assassination of Earl Mountbatten at Mullaghmore in 1979, yet she rose above that grief and sought peace and reconciliation.
Leading by example, the late Queen transformed relationships in Northern Ireland and across this island. The state visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011 and the manner in which the Queen spoke and acted proved to be a defining moment in our history and heralded a new dawn in British-Irish relations. The response from the people of Ireland showed the warmth and affection that she was held in far beyond her own her realms and kingdom, and the task that is set before us is to follow her example and be inspired to reach new heights and walk the path of peace and reconciliation that has been paved before us.
I was privileged to meet the late Queen on a number of occasions, and, in her company, you knew that you were in the presence of greatness. Humility and grace personified, Her Majesty commanded not just our loyalty to the Crown but our adoration for her absolute devotion to us, her people. We say “thank you” for everything.
The Queen’s demise is not the end but a new beginning, as, seamlessly, the Crown has passed to her heir and son, King Charles III. We look forward to a new era, confident that the King will build upon her legacy. To His Majesty King Charles III, we pledge our allegiance. God save the King.
Ms Eastwood: I rise today to give thanks and pay tribute to the life and service of Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen had a truly remarkable reign. In a life that was marked by service and selflessness, she came to symbolise stability for many, a constant presence in a world that was changing all around her and us. To many, she was a source of comfort and reassurance. As many have referenced, she was also a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother, but what she placed above all else was a sense of responsibility and a constant and unremitting sense of duty to serve, which she fulfilled, even in her last days.
She was the most-travelled and longest-serving monarch and visited Northern Ireland many times, three as Princess Elizabeth and 22 as Queen. Although the Queen travelled widely across this island, which she called a “beautiful place”, Lagan Valley was honoured to have the royal residence. Indeed, it was Lagan Valley that was to host one of those earlier visits by Princess Elizabeth, in 1945, with the country having come through the ravages of war. Typically, given the future Queen’s selflessness, she, like so many others, had joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), and she visited RAF Long Kesh in her uniform. I cannot imagine how much that meant to so many people at the time, including my granny working in the factory and my grandad working for 23 Maintenance Unit (MU) RAF at that base. That came to characterise the Queen: humble, down to earth and not wanting to be served but to serve. Many traced the timeline of their life with her: war, changes in lives, marriages, and babies being welcomed into the world. Despite her special position as monarch, there was a shared humanity and a lived experience, and we often shared milestones together.
Lagan Valley holds a special significance for the royal family, with Hillsborough Castle being the royal residence in Northern Ireland. In 2021, Hillsborough received the letters patent for Royal Hillsborough, an acknowledgement of the special role that the people of the village have played over many decades, with the castle often playing a seminal role in our history and politics. Over the past days, it is only right that it has become a focal point for mourning and for expressing both grief and gratitude, with the village and its people playing their part once more as they say goodbye to our Queen and welcome the new King, Charles III.
Life was about service for the Queen, but it was also about using her position to make a difference, to build bridges and to find the words when no one else could, and she made no exception when it came to Northern Ireland. Having read much from the Queen over the past few days, one quote about Northern Ireland strikes me:
“It is clear that reconciliation, equality and mutual understanding cannot be taken for granted, and will require sustained fortitude and commitment … I have seen these qualities in abundance”.
Even in death, her words give us food for thought — a challenge — but hope for the future that we can build together. Even in death, she is guiding, leading and encouraging. She was a wonderful woman, who will remain unparalleled in service and who has left her indelible mark on history and our hearts.
Mr Elliott: First, I thank you and your staff, Mr Speaker. I appreciate this time of reflection here for Her late Majesty The Queen. These are trying times, and, even now, it sounds as if this is a beacon of hope, which we all long for in Northern Ireland.
I remember Queen Elizabeth as a great friend of Northern Ireland. She visited my constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone on many occasions. The day that King George VI died and the future Queen became Queen Elizabeth II will always be remembered in our household, because it is the day that my mother and late father were married, so 6 February 1952 was always a double celebration in the Elliott household.
The first time that I met the Queen was in 1981 at the Royal Show in Stoneleigh in England when I was over visiting as an agriculture student. I thought that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the Queen. Thankfully, I had that opportunity on other occasions when, as I said, she visited Fermanagh and South Tyrone. I remember her visiting our little village of Ballinamallard. It was a great occasion for that community. I remember — Mr Poots referred to it — when she opened the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen and, indeed, when she crossed the street in Enniskillen from St Macartin’s Cathedral to St Michael’s Church. That was a great day in 2012. I also recall being in Dublin the year before that to meet the Queen at the state visit there, and, again, that was a symbol of hope and reconciliation, with the Queen using her position to show goodwill. That was recognised not just by the unionist community and the nationalist community but by communities beyond those on our island.
That extensive public service started even before her 70 years as monarch. Those were trying and testing times as well, because they were all in public view. We might all live life in public view here, but much of it is behind the scenes, and we have not always been in public life. However, the monarch was. That, combined with her deep Christian faith, will be etched in our history. It was a special era for us all.
At this stage, as one chapter closes, another opens. We offer our sincere sympathy to His Majesty King Charles III and all the royal family. We wish him well as he takes on his new role. God save the King.
Mrs Dodds: It is with profound sadness that I express my deepest sympathy and that of my constituents in Upper Bann to His Majesty King Charles III and the whole royal family on the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Her life was devoted to the service of our nation. She was a constant presence in an ever-changing world, a source of wisdom and stability. Our hearts are grateful.
They say that you will always remember where you were when world-changing events took place. Last Thursday, I was travelling on the train from the European Parliament to Brussels airport with my colleague Phillip Brett and Cara Hunter. We had been checking the news on and off all day. On hearing our shock at the news and after we had shed a few tears, the lady who was checking the tickets came up to ask whether the Queen was dead. To us, she was “our Queen”; to others, as President Macron said, she was “the Queen”, the most famous woman in the world, admired by millions and revered by statesmen and politicians, some of whom are said to have been reduced to quivering wrecks in her presence. Some Members have spoken about her twinkling eyes and sense of humour: I like to think that her eyes twinkled a little brighter after some of those encounters.
I had the privilege of meeting the Queen on a number of occasions. One of those occasions was many years ago, when Nigel was Lord Mayor of Belfast. The day before the Queen’s arrival, two policemen had been injured in an attack at the back of Boots in the city centre. When she came forward to the line-up, she enquired about the health of the injured and went on to say that she had seen Nigel speaking about the attack on the evening news the previous night. I took away a couple of things from that brief encounter: that the Queen was touched by the violence and pain of Northern Ireland and that she was concerned for the safety of her citizens. In my naivety, however, I was completely surprised that the Queen had been watching the 6.00 pm news, maybe with a cup of tea, just like the rest of us.
We have all experienced varying emotions since the news broke that Her Majesty had passed away. Across generations, that has taken many forms. For many of us, it is another lost connection to parents and loved ones, a sense of a generation quietly fading away. To my very young grandchildren, she was the woman who had tea with Paddington Bear and carried marmalade sandwiches in her handbag.
The Queen had a strong faith. She expressed that constantly in her Christmas messages and talked about the message of the gospel being her guiding light. She was an exemplar of practical Christianity, a leader who reached out the hand of reconciliation even in difficult circumstances.
Today, we mourn her passing, but, as she would have wanted, we offer our allegiance to our new King, Charles III. God save the King.
Ms Egan: On Thursday, we lost a remarkable woman, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. I am privileged today to use my first contribution in the Chamber to pay tribute to her on behalf of my constituents in North Down. First, our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire royal family as they grieve a much-loved and irreplaceable mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. The Queen was a figurehead and leader for 70 years, dedicating herself to the country, with a vigour and energy that defied her age, for much of her life. The Queen was also dedicated to reconciliation across these islands and used her position to show leadership and promote Anglo-Irish relations during a difficult period of our history. Her selfless devotion to her duties as Queen was a prime example of leadership from the only monarch most of us had ever known.
Although I never had the privilege of meeting the Queen, throughout recent platinum jubilee celebrations, I enjoyed hearing stories and anecdotes from many people across my constituency of what the Queen meant to them. The Queen visited North Down in 1961 and 2009, and it is clear from speaking with those who met her that the Queen’s smile, sense of humour and genuine interest in everyone whom she met left a lasting impression and an enduring affection. Just a few short months ago, my home of Bangor was honoured to receive city status as part of Her Majesty’s platinum jubilee celebrations; a poignant and lasting reminder of a legacy that will continue in the years to come.
In 1947, on her twenty-first birthday, the Queen declared:
“my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service”.
Regardless of the views that anyone here holds concerning the monarchy, we can all agree that the Queen kept her promise to us. It was an incredible life defined by her dedication to public service, leadership and humility in her role. The Queen was a steadfast constant in a changing world. As we bid farewell to our longest-reigning monarch and welcome King Charles III, we remember and pay tribute to her grace, fortitude and unwavering commitment to us all.
Mr Butler: I am sure that many, if not all, of us in the Chamber have watched, listened and read of the unmeasurable impact that the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth has had right around the globe. The outpouring of grief, sorrow and that unknown emotion that has caught many by surprise has been a once-in-a-lifetime yet cathartic and seminal moment that will be indelibly imprinted on our hearts forever. Yet, today, I take the opportunity to remind everyone here that Queen Elizabeth II has left us with a much more powerful, impactful and useful legacy, and that is her life well lived.
This afternoon, I would like to take a brief moment to speak about what, I believe, will be measured and remembered as, perhaps, one of the greatest love stories of all time. Some of us are well used to a level of intrusion in our lives and personal space, due to the work and responsibilities that we have. Politicians, celebrities and sports stars often find themselves under the microscope for a fraction of their lives. That moment of fame or influence does, indeed, come at a cost; some of us even like it.
The Queen had that glare thrust upon her for every single second of her life. The pressure, responsibility and, at times, threats will have been an enormous burden and stress to her, and the scale is unimaginable. However, it was her duty as Queen, powered by an unadulterated love of her nation, the Commonwealth and people around the world, that enabled her to serve relentlessly until she died last week.
The scale of her devotion to her people was epitomised when she lost her husband, lifelong love and life partner, Prince Philip, during COVID. In an act of solidarity and humility, she set aside a state funeral to provide an example of love and care for all her people as she grieved her loss. She was a woman who led by example in a global pandemic and did not demand that the bar be lowered for her or her family. It was an example of love for us all.
The east-west relationships on these islands have been, for the greater part, fractious and, at times, hostile, sadly, to the detriment of many families across these islands and in our communities, and the Queen was no different. The loss of her cousin Lord Mountbatten meant that the Queen was exposed most cruelly to that pain and the loss that many have suffered.
Like all of us in the Chamber, she was born into an era when deep divisions already existed, but she did not let any of that take away from her love for all the people across these islands and, indeed, for peace.
Who will ever forget her visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011, including that smile when she stepped off the plane on to the runway, her carefully chosen green suit and how she enthralled the guests at dinner when she spoke in Irish? However, for me, that was eclipsed when, in 2012, in her diamond jubilee year, she met and shook hands with the then deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness. That handshake shook many of us in all our communities, but the Queen’s love of her people and nation was matched by her love for peace and reconciliation — an example of love and duty for all of us.
Finally, to end this tribute — I hope with no irreverence — I have loved watching the evolving humour and sense of ordinariness that the greatest monarch of all time showed us. Whether having lunch with Paddington Bear and pulling that marmalade sandwich from her handbag or jumping from a helicopter with 007, who, I have to say, bears more than a passing resemblance to our own Justin McNulty, she was able to connect with and inspire many of us in an instant.
However, I do not think that any of you will know about Her Majesty’s love for corned beef, which was a staple for many of us growing up in Northern Ireland and across the globe. The Queen, in her search for the best corned beef available, found a wee shop in Moira, County Armagh in Lagan Valley that makes the best corned beef of all. My brother, who manages much of the production in
McCartney’s of Moira, had one of the greatest thrills of his life when he started to receive orders from Buckingham Palace for that locally made corned beef. He shared with me that the call would come into the shop at times, and the person on the other side simply said, “This is London calling. We would like to order some corned beef”.
In closing, I sincerely pray that King Charles III continues his mother’s legacy with an unadulterated love for the people of these islands and the Commonwealth and a love of peace and reconciliation. Perhaps the phone will still ring in Moira, and the words, “London calling. Can we order some more corned beef?” will be heard. God save the King.
Mr Speaker: Following that product placement, I call Gary Middleton.
Mr Middleton: I thank you, Mr Speaker, and the Assembly team for making the arrangements for us to pay our tributes today.
I rise on behalf of my constituents in Londonderry and, indeed, myself to pass on my sincere condolences to His Majesty King Charles III and the royal family following the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Across Northern Ireland, the rest of the United Kingdom, Europe and, indeed, the world, there is a deep sense of sadness and loss at the passing of Her Majesty. There has been an outpouring of condolences from every corner of our society, and it is testament to Her Majesty’s reign that we see a common sense of decency and respect from across allegiances and cultural backgrounds.
We entered this platinum jubilee year marking Her Majesty’s seventieth year on the throne. Her service to our country and the Commonwealth has been unwavering and steadfast. We have been blessed with her leadership, her guidance and her devotion over those years. Boris Johnson, the former Prime Minister, summed it up well when he said:
“She seemed so timeless and so wonderful that I am afraid we had come to believe, like children, that she would just go on and on”.
Her Majesty was a loyal and constant part of our lives ever since telling the Commonwealth as a young princess:
“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
That pledge has most certainly been honoured.
Her Majesty was patron to over 500 organisations, and, of course, she carried out more than 21,000 engagements over the course of her reign, not least with her visits to Northern Ireland and, indeed, to Londonderry in my constituency. In 1945, as a young princess, she visited St Columb’s Cathedral in Londonderry with her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. She came to the city in 1953 as Queen and again in 2009 to visit the newly opened Lisneal College. Her visits here have created many wonderful memories and are a lasting legacy of her service.
Whilst many of us looked to the Queen for a voice of reassurance and consistency, it was clear that her wisdom and strength was her Saviour and Lord God. As a committed Christian, Her Majesty often spoke of her faith in her speeches and broadcasts. Like many families, my family traditionally gathered around the TV to watch Her Majesty’s televised messages of hope and encouragement. In her 2014 Christmas broadcast, she said:
“For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life … Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.”
Her Majesty knew that the only constant that we have in this earthly life is our Lord God and heavenly father, so we thank God for Her Majesty the Queen, the wonderful years, the wonderful life that she lived and the many lives that she touched over the years. Indeed, in the words of Paddington, “Thank you, Ma’am, for everything.” The torch has now been passed to your beloved son and our new King. God save the King.
Mr Muir: I will speak briefly about a moment that we all knew would eventually come but which I had dreaded. I speak to pay tribute, to give thanks for a lifetime of service and to offer condolences on behalf of the people of North Down.
As was outlined earlier, North Down has a proud and long history of association with Queen Elizabeth II, whether in relation to her first visit in 1961, when she visited Queen’s Hall in Holywood, Bangor Castle and the Royal Ulster Yacht Club, or when she returned in 2009 and yet again visited the Royal Ulster Yacht Club. I remember speaking to the staff after the 2009 visit, and they were in awe at the warmth and charm that she had shown them. They really were grateful that she had come back and for the warm welcome she had given everyone.
The state visit to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth II and the late Duke of Edinburgh in 2011 was seismic. It showed real leadership to progress reconciliation. At the time, William, now the new Prince of Wales, stated:
“It's like a door that's been locked to her for a long time and she's been dying to see what's on the other side of it.”
I am delighted that she was able to unlock that door and that she was able to visit Ireland and progress reconciliation on these islands.
Today, I say, “Thank you. Thank you for your service”. Also, my thoughts and prayers are with the royal family, especially with King Charles who, let us remember, is grieving the loss of his mother whilst preparing to reign over us as the King.
Mr Nesbitt: I begin by thanking you, Mr Speaker, for calling people back for this tribute today and for the words that you used in your notice. It is worth putting it on record that under this one roof today, we have republicans and royalists joined in the common cause of offering respect.
I think that we agree, as many people agree, that this is a moment: a moment of history, of course, but maybe — just maybe — something else. It may be a moment when hope will triumph over experience. Those of us who have dedicated our lives to public service may rethink, recalibrate and remember that there is a concept known as the greater good that must trump personal and party political interests.
Since Thursday, I have reflected many times on the wisdom of the authors of the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in opening that document with a pledge with regard to relationships. They said that we should take the opportunity for a fresh start, to build relationships based on tolerance and reconciliation, offer each other mutual respect and build mutual trust. I note that the First Minister designate made reference to some of those values in her remarks. However, can any of us match Her Majesty’s commitment to rebuilding and repairing relationships? Think only of that state visit to Ireland in 2011. Think of the venues that she chose to visit and of the words and values that she chose to articulate.
The concept of leadership — or, perhaps, lack of it — is part of our daily political and public discourse. Perhaps this is the moment that we can turn into “the moment” when we seize the day, carpe diem, and recommit ourselves to delivering for all the people whom we serve. I sincerely hope that that is part of the legacy of Her Majesty.
My condolences to the royal family. God save the King.
Mr Buckley: I rise to pay tribute to, and reflect upon the life of, the late, great Queen Elizabeth II on behalf of my constituents in Upper Bann and the wider public in Northern Ireland.
When reflecting upon Her Majesty’s historic reign, we are best served by listening to her own words:
“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
Fine words from a then 21-year-old princess, who fulfilled so fervently precisely what she promised.
Putting into words what the death of Her Majesty The Queen means to one is a somewhat difficult task. Many of us have experienced a deep sense of personal loss. There is a synthesis of sorrow and
thankfulness: sorrow at the loss of this nation’s mother, grandmother and matriarch; yet thankfulness that we have shared in and lived through the great second Elizabethan age, and were ruled over by the greatest Briton to have ever lived — truly a queen of all our hearts.
Through Her Majesty’s death, we are reminded of what she achieved in her life, an entire life of unwavering devotion and ultimate sacrifice. From military service in a bygone time of black-and-white television and ration packs to marmalade sandwiches with Paddington Bear, her infectious connection and universal admiration transcended the generations. She was a rock throughout these earthly ages. In Northern Ireland in particular, we felt the loving and ever-so-stable hand of our late Majesty’s calm continuity through times of deep instability in our land. She was a figure to whom we looked equally in times of deep despair and of celebration.
We talk often in this place about identity, and so often, identity can be difficult to explain in these islands, with the many complex and unique paradoxes. However, for many across the generations — perhaps some felt it for the first time — that feeling of what it feels like to be British is intrinsic, natural and cannot be taken away. With all our hearts, it is part of who we are.
Since the news broke, the world has seen the mystique of monarchy and the beauty of the British constitution. Even in death and sorrow, we have continuity and stability. That said, we can, perhaps, pay her late Majesty, “Queen Elizabeth the Great”, the ultimate honour that a generation, mostly now gone, afforded her all those years ago: unwavering love, loyalty and respect for her beloved son, King Charles III.
In that spirit, I close my remarks with the immortal words: the Queen is dead; long live the King.
Mrs Cameron: There is a moment when those on board a ship, pitching and rolling in the midst of stormy seas, begin to doubt that they will ever see land again, and all fear that they are lost forever. Then a cry goes up from the bridge, “Lighthouse! We are safe”. These past few days have felt just as uncertain as we, on board the ship that is our great United Kingdom, have felt as we watched our guiding light, Queen Elizabeth II, grow dim, flicker and, finally, fail. For a moment we wondered whether we could ever survive without her — this wonderful sovereign, the heart of our nation. We are truly in uncharted waters. After the storm, when the waves calm, we realise that, in the realm of our new King, we are safe and secure, as the monarchy that we cherish continues to evolve to meet the needs of an ever-changing world. For now, though, we pay tribute to Elizabeth, our dearly loved Queen. We will never see her like again.
I had the privilege to meet Queen Elizabeth during my time as Mayor of Antrim, in 2010. It was a moment I will never forget. A monarch, a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother — the greatest example we will ever know of a life dedicated to public service. There can be no finer example to us all in this place as we strive to serve those who put their trust in us. May God truly honour our greatest monarch with the reward and the rest that she so richly deserves. God bless you, Elizabeth, and, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Mr Dunne: Today, we say thank you to Her Majesty The Queen, Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history and someone who, I believe, was the most-loved individual in our world. The outpouring of grief and love for our Queen has been clearly demonstrated across our country, nation and, indeed, world. Her Majesty The Queen’s life and legacy is something that we will never see the like of again.
I want to convey my deepest condolences to our royal family on behalf of myself and the people of North Down whom I am honoured to represent. The Queen’s dedicated, selfless service was a true inspiration to us all. In the Queen’s Christmas message in 2014, Her Majesty said:
“Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.”
The Queen’s strong Christian faith undoubtedly guided and helped her throughout her remarkable 70- year reign as our monarch. Her Majesty The Queen was, rightly, cherished and adored by so many across our great nation, regardless of age, colour, class or creed.
During her 25 visits here, she left many special memories for those who were privileged to see or, indeed, meet her. I count it a great honour to have seen her a number of times in person, including during a memorable visit to Queen’s University in 2008 whilst I was studying there. Indeed, she made a number of visits to my constituency of North Down, including a visit to officially open the Queen’s Hall in Holywood, back in 1961, along with the late, great Duke of Edinburgh. Amongst other engagements, she visited Bangor Marina in 2009. In the past number of solemn and sombre days, I have been reminiscing fondly with many local people about those memorable visits. Indeed, it was fitting that, during her platinum jubilee celebrations, just a few short months ago, Her Majesty The Queen conferred city status upon Bangor — an honour that will be forever cherished.
We say thanks to God for Her Majesty’s life of service — a life so very well lived. I join others in wishing His Majesty King Charles III the strength and wisdom to fulfil his duties to our great nation. May he know God’s help and guidance in the days ahead. That goodwill was clearly demonstrated across our country yesterday, at the various proclamation events, including the County Down event in Bangor, which were so well attended across Northern Ireland. The crowd that turned out in the treacherous weather conditions was testimony to that goodwill. Long may he reign. God save our King.
Mrs Little-Pengelly: There have been so many beautiful, eloquent remarks made on the sad passing of Her Majesty The Queen, Elizabeth II. I have no doubt that there will be many more in the days to come. There have been words of sorrow, yes, but also many words of affection, reflection and love. It is an honour to add my short contribution at this time of national mourning on behalf of the constituents of Lagan Valley.
Across the United Kingdom and, indeed, the world, there has been an outpouring not only of sympathy but deep admiration. Strikingly, the sentiments have come from people of many different creeds and backgrounds. In the 70 years of her reign, the world changed beyond recognition. There have been not only times of huge turbulence, despair and fragility but times of happiness and celebration. Generation after generation experienced that changing world through periods not only of personal grief and family joy but national mourning and public celebration. Throughout it all, Her Majesty The Queen was a reassuring and unshakeable presence, binding together the generations and the past with the present: a calm in the midst of the unpredictable storms of life. That value was immeasurable. She will be much missed.
Her Majesty’s was a life well lived. Born to rule, she lived to serve. In those decades of tireless service, she ensured that she shone a light on the incredible work of individuals, communities and organisations the length and breadth of this United Kingdom. In 2016, she expressed that so well by saying:
“I often draw strength from meeting ordinary people doing extraordinary things: volunteers, carers, community organisers and good neighbours; unsung heroes whose quiet dedication makes them special.
They are an inspiration to those who know them”.
She significantly extended the honours system to recognise that. Her Majesty knew that the cleaner in the hospital saves as many lives as the doctor who performs the operations and that, although Her Majesty wore the crown, the greatness of the United Kingdom comes from the millions of people who give selfless service every day.
Her Majesty was the greatest ambassador we had. She was a healer of wounds and a voice not only in times of despair but of hope. She was a beacon of reconciliation, stepping forward and leading by example. Her Majesty oversaw the movement from empire to the Commonwealth, making a particular, personal dedication to that cause. Her Majesty was a woman of principle, strong values and unceasing service to her country, sustained through the years by her deep and unshakeable faith in the people of the United Kingdom and in Christ, her Saviour. No matter our background or views, hers was a life that we should be inspired by, for hers was lived so utterly in the service of others. For that, what gratitude we owe.
I end with Her Majesty’s words from 2014:
“For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, … is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role-model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.”
On behalf of the constituents of Lagan Valley, I thank you, Ma’am. You will be so deeply missed and were so deeply loved. God save the King.
Mr Kingston: The many expressions of personally felt sorrow and affection on the passing of Her late Majesty The Queen remind many of us, me included, of the reaction that we have had to the loss of a close family member. The late Queen was a matriarch figure not just nationally and internationally but, for many of us, in our own lives and family circles. In the North Belfast constituency, a mural on the Shankill Road at Crimea Street, which was unveiled earlier this year for the Queen’s platinum jubilee, has become a focal point for laying flowers in remembrance and for written expressions of sympathy to our royal family upon their deep loss.
On a personal note, I had the pleasure of being in the presence of Her Majesty on several occasions during my years on Belfast City Council, including when she and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the grounds of Stormont in 2012 as part of her diamond jubilee visit to Northern Ireland. Two years later, I had the great pleasure of meeting the Queen and Prince Philip and speaking with each of them when they visited Belfast City Hall in 2014. I consider that one of the highlights of my life.
I am a convinced supporter of our system of constitutional monarchy, with a lineage stretching back over 1,000 years. We see the unifying strength of that at times such as this, with the direct connection that it provides to our past. Her final gift to the nation in this time of mourning has been a strengthening of our Union.
International admiration of our late Queen has contributed massively to the influence, esteem and soft power of the United Kingdom. Among her various responsibilities, one that she cherished most was head of the Commonwealth. She took great interest in her overseas realms and peoples and in the Commonwealth of nations, which accounts for around one third of the world’s population.
Our late Queen’s outstanding quality was her devotion to duty and public service, fulfilling the pledge that she made in 1947 at the age of just 21, as others have said. Many have commented that that was a continuation of the dedication that she witnessed in her father, who came to the throne in difficult circumstances and helped lead the country through the Second World War. As the baton has passed to our new King, Charles III, I have no doubt that he will have learnt greatly from his mother’s exemplary approach and record of service.
We give thanks to almighty God for the life and service of Queen Elizabeth II. We are privileged to have lived in this second Elizabethan age, and we pledge our support for and allegiance to her son and heir, King Charles III. Long live the King. God save the King.
Mrs Erskine: Many of us will have felt an overwhelming sense of grief since the news of Her Majesty The Queen’s passing. Our heartfelt condolences are sent from my constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone and, indeed, from the Chamber. Her Majesty The Queen was held in such high regard across the country, the Commonwealth and the world. Our words cannot adequately sum up what Her Majesty meant to us.
The Queen visited Northern Ireland 25 times, both as Princess and as Queen. She took a keen interest in this part of her realm. For me, as a female and one of the youngest unionists in the Chamber, she was the ultimate role model. Her Majesty became Queen during a time when it was truly a man’s world.
Her Majesty was the epitome of public service and steadfastness. She embraced technological change, yet she held to her principles in an ever-changing world, a lesson for me as a political representative and, indeed, for all of us. She carried out her duties with the utmost solemnity, unwavering dedication and loyalty. It is difficult to think of a world without Queen Elizabeth II. We look to Her Majesty in times of joy and trouble. She is all that we have ever known as sovereign, and this moment marks a huge page turn in a chapter of the history of the United Kingdom. Elizabeth the Great has passed, and we, her subjects, are indebted to her for her loyalty to us.
It will come as no surprise to the Chamber to hear that, in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, I represent the most westerly part of His Majesty’s realm. I think that one visit by Her Majesty The Queen left a mark on all of us in Enniskillen. It was the location of a deeply symbolic visit by Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh in 2012. I remember the people lining the streets of Enniskillen that day, expecting to see the Queen. We were not disappointed, and that day has lived long in the lives and memories of everybody from my constituency. Recently, the Queen’s outfit from that day was on display in
Enniskillen. Again, people from across the community, young and old, came to see memorabilia and the Queen’s outfit.
One thing that was evident on those two occasions was that the Queen transcended everything. Her appeal was such that she brought all sections of the community together. Her Majesty has left a lasting legacy, from the Queen’s Green Canopy to the Commonwealth, and in how she showed, in true form, what peace and reconciliation looks like. However, the greatest legacy that the Queen has left behind is her quiet, genuine Christian faith, which she never shied away from sharing. The Queen said:
“Throughout my life, the message and teachings of Christ have been my guide and in them I find hope.”
May the royal family find hope and strength in Christ in the days and months that lie ahead. We pray, in these days, for the royal family and, indeed, for King Charles III. We thank God for the life of Her Majesty The Queen and look back on this Elizabethan period with pride and a sense of gratitude.
Long live the King; God save the King.
Mr Brett: The complex beauty of our human nature dictates that it is only in death that we truly comprehend the enormity of the impact that those we love had upon us. For me and countless others across these islands, a world without Queen Elizabeth never seemed to be a possibility. Selfishly wrapping her in a cloak of invincibility and hoping that, like the Crown, she would be eternal, we dared not consider a time without her, because, deep down, we feared this very moment. For us, Her Majesty was the very essence of our national identity, the physical and spiritual manifestation of our national consciousness and our moral compass. She represented and, more importantly, epitomised all that we, as a people and a nation, held dear.
In many ways, Her Majesty had the unique ability to know us better than we know ourselves. That is why, in times of global uncertainty and domestic disquiet, she was our greatest comfort and strength. In times of seemingly immovable darkness, it was to her that the country turned. She was the beacon of light that always charted us to safer waters and ensured that we would be looked after. In an ever- changing world, she remained a cherished constant; in times of unpredictability, she was the one that changed not. That is why the gaze of the nation always turned to her. It is not just because she represented everything that we are as a people, but much more than that. She — Her Majesty The Queen — represented everything that we, as a people, aspire to be.
Her Majesty had a unique ability to bring people together and, as she did in life, her death has served to unite communities in grief and common understanding. I acknowledge the generous and warm tributes from across traditional divides and from Members on all sides of the House. They are truly appreciated.
Although we must now learn to live without her, her legacy lives on. It is a legacy that will not just be found in the books of history; it is a legacy that is in millions and millions of people across the Commonwealth and will be in generations yet to come. The values that she personified — duty, service, honour and grace — never age. Our Elizabethan era may have ended, but its enduring values, influence and timeless impact will proudly outlive us all. Yes, it is with unimaginable sorrow and grief that we mourn her passing but, in so doing, we celebrate her life, which was dedicated to us.
On behalf of a grateful nation and the people of North Belfast, I simply say, “Thank you, Ma’am”, and I utter the words that have never before been spoken by my generation: The Queen is dead; long live the King.
Ms Forsythe: Today, we share in remembrance and thanksgiving for Queen Elizabeth II, by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other realms and territories, Queen, head of the Commonwealth and Defender of the Faith. We send heartfelt condolences to her entire family.
On her twenty-first birthday, our beloved late Queen made a solemn vow that inspires me in my role as an MLA. In my time here, whether it be long or short, I shall be devoted to the service of all the constituents of South Down.
The Queen’s 70-year reign over us was an incredible demonstration of steadfast, noble, gracious and inspiring leadership and selfless service to us all. For that, we express our overwhelming thanks. In South Down, the gratitude and respect for our Queen are immense. I express that thanks from all those who loved her dearly: from our loyal orders, of which our area hosts the largest in the country; our armed forces, both those in service and our veterans; and our Churches, schools, local community organisations and many individuals who thought so much of her. I express a very special thanks on behalf of those in the area who were recognised by the Queen for awards or received direct communications from her. Locally, we were especially moved that one of Her Majesty’s last pieces of correspondence was a letter to the Schomberg Society in Mourne, just over three weeks ago, on the dedication of a VC statue in Kilkeel. That letter and message now take on even more poignancy. We send our condolences from South Down, in our corner of Northern Ireland, to our new King and his entire family at this time.
Queen Elizabeth’s service to the people and her country was surpassed only by her service to her King of Kings, Jesus Christ. I am proud to share in her faith and Saviour and to confidently say, “Your Majesty, I know that we will meet again”. I challenge all in the Chamber and those watching beyond on whether they can say the same. In my local worship yesterday, my minister prayed for Elizabeth Windsor; no more a titled queen, but simply a child of God. That is a beautiful, faithful thought as we thank her for her service.
We pray for a long and faithful reign by King Charles III. God save the King.
Mr Robinson: I rise to pay a very personal tribute on the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. When I was elected to the House in May, my thoughts immediately turned to the content of my maiden speech. I envisaged preparing a speech on a topic relating to East Londonderry, such as transportation, housing or educational issues, never once thinking that I would be standing in the House and paying tribute at a time of such a global event in our history that has left the world with the heaviest of hearts.
Many of us in the House probably recall little of what was happening in our worlds as five-year-olds, but I have a vivid memory of that very tender age back in 1977. Seared deep into my memory was the visit of Queen Elizabeth to the north coast on board the royal yacht. I can clearly recall the excitement of that visit at that time for me and the children of my generation, and it being almost akin to the excitement of a child on Christmas Eve. That was the unique effect that our Queen had throughout
her rule. She left an indelible mark across every generation regardless of age, background, gender or sexuality. She generated a magical excitement that built a love for her that spanned our entire lives.
As a former Causeway Coast and Glens councillor, I was overjoyed when she visited Royal Portrush Golf Club for lunch and a reception back in 2016. During that series of engagements, she travelled on a steam train from Coleraine station along raw and stunning scenery to Bellarena in the foothills of beautiful Binevenagh Mountain, a location that is indeed fit for a Queen. Of course, many of us in the House can recall her diamond jubilee visit to the grounds of this Building, where she and the late Prince Philip were driven through the estate in an open-topped vehicle, cheered on by many thousands of her loyal subjects.
In a wider context and moving beyond my personal memories, it is safe to say that our nation was not ready to say goodbye to our precious Queen. As she was the only British monarch whom most of us have ever known, it is difficult to imagine our world without such a unique and wonderful woman. She was undoubtedly the most iconic and admired woman on the planet, and she has given us impeccable service that we will never see the like of again. We will miss her comforting smile, her soothing, reassuring guidance and, of course, her very deep wisdom. She has been a faithful servant to us all and to our Lord. May she be received with grace into glory where she will be forever remembered as this nation’s greatest ever treasure. Our Queen united this nation in life and has united this nation in a deep sense of grief.
As this Province mourns, I conclude by saying, on behalf of the people of East Londonderry, whose birthrights stem from Mount Sandel and the River Roe, the Bann, the rugged and majestic peaks of Binevenagh, the ancient woodlands of Faughan Valley, the white sandy beaches of Benone or Whiterocks and the vistas of Glenshane, I hope that you realise how much we will miss you and how much you were so dearly loved. It is the end of a wonderful life of service, and, for that, we extend our heartfelt sadness to our new King and the entire royal family. God Save our King.
Mr T Buchanan: The day of 8 September 2022 will no doubt be etched on the memory of multitudes of people across the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and, indeed, around the world as the date on which the hearts of the nation were broken by the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. So great was the impact on many in our nation that many will remember in years to come where they were, what they were doing and what they were about when the sad news filtered through of her passing. The outpouring of grief and sympathy from multitudes of people across the nation and around the world stands as testament to the esteem in which she was held by all across our land.
Today, as we pause to reflect with heavy hearts on 70 glorious years of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, we do so with thanksgiving for the dedication and service that marked her out as the exemplary woman that she was. She was steadfast and unshakable. Defender of the Faith, she was held in great affection by the nation. She was dedicated to the work for and service of the people. She was an inspiration to all, one who led by example and reached out in the most difficult of circumstances. She was a woman who reigned well and whose reign was blessed and owned of God. Her Majesty, on numerous occasions throughout her 70-year reign, spoke of her faith. We heard that today from numerous Members in the Chamber, and we were reminded of her words in 2014:
“the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace … is an inspiration and an anchor in my life.”
It was that anchor in her life that kept her going through the difficult periods of her 70-year reign, that led and guided her in that calm and compassionate way that she demonstrated to our nation, the Commonwealth and right across the world.
We can echo the words of the apostle Paul today and pay tribute to the Queen:
“I have fought a good fight; I have finished the course; I have kept the faith.”
No doubt, we can attribute those same words to the late Queen Elizabeth II: a woman who fought a good fight; a woman who finished the course; a woman who kept the faith. We are indebted to her and have the deepest gratitude for all that she has done for us. We tender our deepest and heartfelt sympathy today to the royal family on the loss of a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother and assure them of our prayerful support. We wish King Charles III God’s blessing in future days. Long may he reign over us. God save the King.
Mr K Buchanan: Today, we take the time to acknowledge the life of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She was a constant figure that remained for many years and will leave a legacy behind for even more years to come. On behalf of my constituents in Mid Ulster, I express our deepest sympathy to His Majesty King Charles III, Her Majesty The Queen Consort and the entire royal household. We send them our love, thoughts and prayers as they mourn the loss of a special mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
Her late Majesty was of great significance across the nation. She was a symbol of stability for us all, even in times of trouble. We owe her the greatest respect for maintaining the foundations of the country that we live in today, and we devote our time to remembering her in the coming days as she devoted hers to us for 70 years.
The Queen’s first official visit to Northern Ireland was as Princess Elizabeth in 1945 alongside her parents King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Her first visit as Queen followed her coronation, and she was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh. In May 2002, she visited Loughry college in Cookstown. Her late Majesty had great significance even in the most rural places in Northern Ireland. In my constituency, Mid Ulster, in the small rural village of Pomeroy, the school is named Queen Elizabeth II Primary School, and my Orange hall is named Queen Elizabeth II Moree Orange Hall, of which I am immensely proud. Her loss is felt deeply by so many in Mid Ulster.
Her Majesty’s death has brought most in our society together as we share our great sadness that such a prominent figure is no longer here to guide us. We look forward, however, to a new king, Charles III, who, we hope, will guide and strengthen our country in the way that Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II did for 70 years. In March this year, His Majesty King Charles III and Her Majesty The Queen Consort visited Cookstown and went on a walkabout to meet well-wishers as well as be introduced to local businesses, schoolchildren and community members. They visited Superstars café, Loughry college and Lissan House — a true honour for them and the residents of Castledawson, where they visited in 2004.
I have no stories like the previous Prime Minister, Theresa May, with the cheese issue. We do not know if she broke the five-second rule; she did not disclose that. Robbie Butler had his corned beef story — how much of that is true is to be declared by Robbie. Certainly, I have none to share today.
At this time, I pray that God will grant King Charles III wisdom and health during his reign. God save the King.
Mr Harvey: I extend my condolences and those of thousands of my Strangford constituents to King Charles III and members of the royal family. I pray that almighty God will comfort and sustain them at this, their time of grief. As Her Majesty once said:
“Grief is the price we pay for love”.
The love of a grateful nation has been evident since the passing of our beloved monarch. The nation and the Commonwealth owe Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II a tremendous debt of gratitude for her steadfast service over her reign, for the exemplary dignity, wisdom and diligence with which she carried out her role, for the great personal sacrifice she made and her devotion to our country.
Her Majesty’s love of Northern Ireland was evident throughout her reign, particularly when she visited. She was held in deep affection by her Ulster subjects, who found Her Majesty to be someone they could trust and depend on. Her Majesty comforted and sustained a nation through many difficult times, particularly for our Province, as has already been said. She played a significant role in the work of reconciliation across these islands, and her historic visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011 was just one event in a lifetime of peacebuilding.
For 70 years, Her Majesty’s reign provided an unparalleled constancy for our nation and its people. That constancy was grounded in a deep and genuine faith in Jesus Christ. Indeed, our late sovereign spoke often about her faith and the strength that she drew from it. It was a living faith in a living Saviour. Our beloved Queen’s race is now run. She fought the good fight, and she leaves behind a legacy unrivalled in history. In the words of Matthew, chapter 25, we heartily cry:
“Well done, good and faithful servant … enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
God save the King.
Mr Irwin: Thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing extra time for everyone to make their contributions. We join together with a solemn yet hopeful outlook. We mourn our late Queen Elizabeth II, yet we look to the future under our new King, Charles III. This truly is a time of mixed emotion. Through my remarks before the House, I wish to convey the thoughts and sympathies of the people of the constituency of Newry and Armagh on the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. People are genuinely grieving. That grief is certainly palpable when I speak with my constituents, and it shows me clearly just how highly respected our late Queen was.
Queen Elizabeth held a special place in our hearts and meant so much to so many. Her reign over 70 years is unprecedented. The longevity of her service is historic and will be the subject of much discussion and retelling for decades to come. Her influence on our society has been of the greatest quality. Her ethos of selfless service, her endless dignity and the respect that she enjoyed is a road map that we would all do well to study and, indeed, follow. It is hugely important that she built her foundations on the scriptures. Her long life has upheld the Christian faith. It sustained her on her seven-decade-long journey as our Queen, comforted her on many truly sad occasions and, of course, gave her bright hope, enthusiasm and peace of mind as she carried out her duties so diligently.
We mourn her passing and grieve this most significant loss. However, to allow us to cope somewhat, we have a wealth of good memories and a nation that has benefited greatly from her leadership. The late Queen’s place in history is firmly implanted. On behalf of the people of Newry and Armagh, I say a heartfelt thank you for her service. My thoughts, sympathy and prayers continue to be with King Charles III and the entire royal family.
We have a new King, Charles III. I pay tribute to him and wish him every blessing as he embarks on his journey. As has been mentioned in recent coverage, it has been one of the longest apprenticeships, but he has the significant benefit of the example of his late mother who has gone before. She has left behind an important and vast tool chest from which to draw experience. I am sure that he will do very well, and recent publicity has shown that the public have warmly embraced him.
As we move through this week, we look towards the funeral of our late Queen. Whilst this is a time of sadness, quiet reflection and recalling our memories of our beloved monarch, we can rest in the assurance of Queen Elizabeth’s strong belief in the Lord. She has finished the course; she has kept the faith. That is her greatest legacy.
Mr Speaker: Members, as a mark of respect, please be still.
Members observed one minute’s silence.
Mr Speaker: Thank you, Members. That concludes the tributes to Her Majesty The Queen, the late Queen Elizabeth. I shall now write to the King and enclose a copy of today’s tributes. Members are welcome to join me in signing the book of condolence in the Great Hall. Thank you all.