WATCH: Northern Ireland’s leaders pay tribute to Prince Philip

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Duke of Edinburgh awards in 2017

By Rebecca Black, PA

Northern Ireland’s political leaders have paid tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh.

Philip died at the age of 99, Buckingham Palace announced on Friday.

First Minister Arlene Foster expressed her sadness at his passing.

“It is a sadness that I know will be shared by countless others in Northern Ireland and right across the world,” she said.

“Prince Philip was widely respected for his active and dedicated service to the country and for his steadfast support to Her Majesty the Queen throughout her reign.

“He had a strong interest in Northern Ireland and I had the privilege of meeting him here on a number of his many visits.

“He had a profound and positive impact on thousands of our young people who found their purpose, passion and place in the world through participation in the Duke of Edinburgh awards.

“This inspirational programme is just one example of the many charities and voluntary organisations in which he was involved right up to his retirement from public service at the age of 96.

“I offer my deepest sympathies and condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and to all the members of the Royal family at this sad time.”

Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill said: “All those who come from the unionist tradition, all those with a British identity will feel this hurt more acutely than others.

“So I wanted to send out a very strong message to those people that I acknowledge your hurt and your pain and your suffering.

“I’m deputy First Minister for all and I think it’s really, really important that I reach out to all those people that value and cherish the royal family at this sad time and to offer them my condolences.

“I think it’s really important that we are respectful. This is a time of loss, a family are grieving. I think it’s really important to acknowledge that.

“I do think it’s incumbent upon us all to be very conscious of the fact that we need to be respectful of each other.”

Ulster Unionist Party leader Steve Aiken described the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh as an “extremely sad day in the life of our nation which will be reflected in Northern Ireland”.

“Prince Philip will be fondly remembered as someone who dedicated his life to service and was a constant companion by the side of Her Majesty The Queen,” he said.

“He will be sadly missed.”

Colum Eastwood, leader of the nationalist SDLP, also expressed his condolences and said his thoughts are with “all those in Northern Ireland who feel a strong connection and affinity with Prince Philip and the British Royal family”.

“The people of these islands are joined together by our common history and shared experiences of historic conflict. Philip and his family were directly affected by the conflict on this island and between these islands,” Mr Eastwood said.

“I want to acknowledge the role that he played alongside Queen Elizabeth in building relationships and promoting reconciliation, most visibly during their recent visit to Ireland. He had a part to play in sustaining the new bond of shared endeavour across these islands,” he said.

“This will be a difficult moment for many in our community. 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.”

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