Northern Ireland leaders pay tribute to Prince Philip

Northern Ireland's political leaders have expressed their sympathies following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Prince Philip, the Queen's consort of more than 70 years, passed away at Windsor Castle on Friday aged 99, Buckingham Palace announced.

Flowers are laid at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland to pay tribute to Prince Philip. Credit: Presseye

In a joint statement issued on behalf of the Stormont Executive, First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill offered their condolences.

DUP leader Mrs Foster said: "I am deeply saddened by the news of the death of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.

"It is a sadness that I know will shared by countless others in Northern Ireland and right across the world."

The First Minister added: "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 on a number of his many visits here."

Prince Philip signs the visitors' book at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland during a visit with the Queen. Credit: PA

Mrs Foster also noted the "profound and positive impact" on thousands of young people who participated in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

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

“I offer my deepest sympathies and condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and to the other members of the royal family at this sad time."

Sinn Féin's Michelle O’Neill said: “I wish to extend my sincere condolences to Queen Elizabeth and her family on the death of her husband Prince Phillip.

“Over the past two decades there have been significant interventions by the British Royal family to assist in the building of relationships between Britain and Ireland.

“It is appropriate that this contribution to the advancement of peace and reconciliation is rightly recognised."

She added: “To all those of a unionist tradition and of British identity - those who value and cherish the Royal family - I wish to acknowledge the sense of loss felt."

Prince Philip and the Queen met with then Stormont leaders Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson in 2014. Credit: Pacemaker

Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly Alex Maskey also expressed sympathies.

“I am very sorry to learn of the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh after a long and full record of public service,” he said.

“While many in the community will be saddened by the news of his death and will reflect on a life well lived, I am most mindful today that a family is in mourning and, on behalf of the Northern Ireland Assembly, I express my sympathy to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and the rest of the Royal Family on the loss of a husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather.”

He added: “I will be liaising with the Assembly Commission and Party Whips to put arrangements in place for the formal expression of condolences at the Assembly and Parliament Buildings.”

The Queen and Prince Philip visited UTV on one of their trips to Northern Ireland. Credit: Pacemaker

UUP 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".

He added: "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 will be sadly missed."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: “My sympathies are with Queen Elizabeth and her family today following the death of a loved husband, father and grandfather.

"This is an immensely difficult time for them, compounded by the restrictions which have made saying goodbye so difficult for people and families across our islands.

“I also send my sincere condolences to people in communities across Northern Ireland who feel a special connection and affinity with Prince Phillip and the royal family."

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has also expressed his sadness at Prince Philip's passing.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Queen Elizabeth and the people of the United Kingdom at this time," he added.