Praise from unionists for 'respectful way' nationalists paid tribute to late Duke of Edinburgh in assembly
NATIONALIST ministers and MLAs yesterday joined their unionist counterparts in paying tribute to the late Duke of Edinburgh at a special sitting of the Stormont assembly.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill extended her "sincere condolences to Queen Elizabeth and to her family".
The Sinn Féin deputy leader highlighted the "significant interventions" from the royal family over the past two decades to "assist in the building of relationships between Britain and Ireland".
"It's appropriate this contribution to the advancement of peace and reconciliation is rightly recognised," she said.
SDLP infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon also expressed her and her party's condolences to Queen Elizabeth and her family.
"My thoughts are particularly with the Queen, who has lost her husband of 73 years," she said.
"To wake up without your steadfast companion must be heart-breaking - and for many of us must be unimaginable."
The North Belfast MLA referenced "uncharitable and mean-spirited online commentary about Philip", saying it "diminishes us all".
"This will be a difficult week for many in our community," she said.
"It is important that we all respect that and continue to work together to heal the divisions of our past and build a more united community."
Stormont Speaker Alex Maskey said it was "impossible to do justice to such a full and long life in just a few words" but singled out the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme for the opportunities it gives to young people.
The Sinn Féin MLA expressed his condolences to the Queen and the royal family on behalf of the assembly, which after the tributes adjourned for the day as a mark of respect.
First Minister Arlene Foster described the Duke of Edinburgh as a "true intergenerational legacy to our youth, our United Kingdom and the world's environment".
The DUP leader welcomed the "respectful way" in which the speaker and other assembly parties had responded to the duke's passing.
"I think the unity of spirit has been evident so let us all harness and channel that spirit moving ahead as the Assembly and Executive work through the very real and significant challenges that face us," she said.
Alliance leader Naomi Long sent her party's thoughts and prayers to the royal family, and to the Queen in particular who had lost her companion of more than seven decades.
The justice minister said the duke had "demonstrated in practice what it means to be a supportive husband to a powerful woman".
"Prince Philip's was a long life, well lived," said Mrs Long.
"I pray that the 73 years of happy memories and that life well lived will be able to bring some comfort to Her Majesty the Queen and to the wider family circle and all those who loved him in the difficult days and months ahead."
Ulster Unionist Party leader Steve Aiken also expressed his and his party's condolences to the Queen and the royal family.
"We all share in Her Majesty's grief and her sense of loss for her husband, who was her constant companion, supporter and muse for 73 years of being together through momentous times of change. That sense of loss must be profound," he told MLAs.
Mr Aiken thanked the recognition of the loss made by Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and members of the SDLP.
"May I state how welcome your remarks were and whilst we may disagree on much, those are welcome sentiments. I appreciate your sympathy and reaching out to those of us who hold the union and the monarchy dear," he said.