Queen Elizabeth tributes paid by MLAs at special sitting of Northern Ireland Assembly

Assembly speaker Alex Maskey MLA.

MLAs have gathered at Stormont to pay tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II.

In a statement released on Monday, Sinn Féin Assembly speaker Alex Maskey said the monarch's death should be "rightly recognised as an historic global event".

A book of condolence is to open in Stormont's Great Hall as well as an online book of condolence for the public to sign virtually.

Parliament Buildings is currently closed to the public during the official period of mourning until Queen Elizabeth II's funeral on Monday 19 September.

Opening proceedings was Speaker Alex Maskey.

"I want to specifically recognise today that this is a sorrowful time for unionist colleagues in the chamber," he said, "and all of 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."

In a letter to MLAs, Mr Maskey wrote: "The death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth is rightly recognised as an historic global event and it is important that Assembly Members should meet in the Assembly Chamber at the earliest opportunity to express their condolences in recognition of a long life given to public service.

Alex Maskey's letter to MLAs. Credit: Speaker's Office

"I will gather Members in the Assembly Chamber at 12.30pm on Monday 12th September 2022 for tributes to be paid.

"Following the tributes, and taking account of what is happening in other legislatures, I will then open a book of condolences for Assembly Members and building users to sign in the Great Hall.

"In keeping with the wishes of the Royal Household, the Assembly will retain the signed book of condolences for its own record."

Meanwhile, there is a significant security operation under way in the Co Down village of Hillsborough ahead of the visit of the new King on Tuesday.

Visitors continue to congregate at Hillsborough Castle, the royal residence in Northern Ireland, where a large number of floral tributes have been laid.

Accompanied by the Queen Consort, Charles will arrive at Belfast City Airport on Tuesday where he will be greeted by the Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, Dame Fionnuala Mary Jay-O'Boyle, and Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris.

King Charles and the Queen Consort will travel to Hillsborough Castle for several engagements.

There they will hold a private audience with Mr Heaton-Harris as well as meeting with representatives of political parties in the region.

The royal couple will then receive a message of condolence from the speaker of the Stormont Assembly on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland.

After, they will attend a reception at the castle, hosted by Mr Heaton-Harris, which will be attended by some members of the public.

King Charles and Camilla will also travel to St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast where they will attend a service of reflection for the life of the Queen.

They will then undertake a walkabout at Writers' Square before leaving Northern Ireland.

The trip to Northern Ireland follows a visit to Scotland on Monday, with a visit to Wales planned for later in the week.

Hillsborough has been the location for much of the Northern Ireland ceremonial activities since the death of the Queen.

The proclamation of the new King was read from Hillsborough Castle on Sunday by the Norroy and Ulster King of Arms Robert Noel.

The remarkable life of the Queen remembered in our latest episode of What You Need To Know