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Editorial: An occasion for mutual respect

THE state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II was undoubtedly an occasion of global significance, as the international community came together in a show of admiration and respect for a life of remarkable public service.

The congregation of 2,000 people inside Westminster Abbey included presidents, prime ministers and royalty and the proceedings are likely to have been seen by a worldwide television audience in the billions.

While some may be uncomfortable in troubling economic times with the scale of such ceremonies, there can be no doubt the queen is deserving of the highest praise for the manner in which she carried out her duties over many decades, including defining contributions to the relationship between the peoples of Britain and Ireland over the last years of her life.

Yesterday will have been a solemn and moving occasion for millions who watched the funeral service and processions at home or on public screens across the UK.

In Northern Ireland, a bank holiday closed schools and most other services to accommodate those who wished to follow the proceedings, while many commercial activities also paused for some or all of the day.

Equally, some businesses in predominantly nationalist areas remained open as normal and it was encouraging that, to an overwhelming extent, an attitude of tolerance and mutual respect prevailed.

Ireland's main Church denominations have long led by example in this regard and senior figures were all present at yesterday's funeral alongside faith leaders from around the world.

There will have been some discomfort among the great and good in attendance when the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, praised the queen's life of service and added: "Those who serve will be loved and remembered when those who cling to power and privileges are long forgotten."

The five main party leaders at Stormont, as well as Speaker Alex Maskey, were among the mourners in a welcome continuation of the unity that been on display since the monarch's death.

However, it is a matter of deep regret that hostilities are likely to resume with the burial of the monarch as the DUP continues its damaging boycott of the devolved institutions.

If our political representatives can sit together at Westminster Abbey in recognition of the queen's courage in holding out the hand of friendship, there is no reason why they cannot sit around the executive table in the same spirit of partnership and public service she embodied.

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