Birthday greetings for Queen from Orange and unionist leaders

HRH The Queen chats with Zoe Long aged 7 from Killyleagh at a Garden Party in Hillsborough Castle. This was the last of the official engagements on day two of the Royal visit. Photo by Aaron McCracken/Harrison Photography
HRH The Queen chats with Zoe Long aged 7 from Killyleagh at a Garden Party in Hillsborough Castle. This was the last of the official engagements on day two of the Royal visit. Photo by Aaron McCracken/Harrison Photography

The Orange Order and Northern Ireland’s unionist leaders have congratulated the Queen and offered their best wishes to the monarch on her 90th birthday.

Praising Her Majesty’s “extraordinary dedication” throughout her reign. the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland’s grand master Edward Stevenson said she continues to set an excellent example.

File photo dated 08/09/60 of members of the royal family playing with Prince Andrew in the grounds of Balmoral, as Scotland has remained a special place for the Queen throughout her 90 years, home to key events, regular visits and - of course - family holidays

File photo dated 08/09/60 of members of the royal family playing with Prince Andrew in the grounds of Balmoral, as Scotland has remained a special place for the Queen throughout her 90 years, home to key events, regular visits and - of course - family holidays

“On behalf of the Orange Institution, I would like to offer our warmest congratulations to Her Majesty on reaching such a momentous milestone,” he said.

“It is a magnificent accomplishment for the United Kingdom’s longest reigning monarch who has devoted her entire life to the service of her country and the Commonwealth.

“Since ascending the throne over six decades ago, Queen Elizabeth’s extraordinary dedication, faith and unfailing sense of duty have been incomparable, acting always in the best interests of her subjects.”

Mr Stevenson said the Queen’s wisdom and charm have endeared an entire nation, and “none more so than here in Northern Ireland where she is held in the highest of esteem and affection.”

Queen Elizabeth II arrives to officially open the new bandstand at Alexandra Gardens, Windsor, as the monarch begins her 90th birthday celebrations. Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA Wire

Queen Elizabeth II arrives to officially open the new bandstand at Alexandra Gardens, Windsor, as the monarch begins her 90th birthday celebrations. Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA Wire

Mr Stevenson, who will be attending a parade in London in June marking the Queen’s official birthday, described Her Majesty as an “inspiration” and “leadership icon” for the rest of the world.

He added: “With God’s blessing, we pray she will continue in her role as Head of State, setting an example to us all and playing a constant role in our national life.”

First Minister Arlene Foster has paid her own tribute.

The DUP leader said: “I have had the privilege to meet Her Majesty on a number of occasions. Each time I have come away feeling she is something very special.

“For me as a woman, a mother, a Christian and a leader she provides such a good example of how to live one’s life. She is a strong woman and a caring mother. She has a simple Anglican faith and a tremendous sense of duty which she has lived with all her life.

“I am honoured and humbled that tomorrow (Thursday) evening, as First Minister of Northern Ireland, I will attend, with the Lord Lieutenant of County Fermanagh, the lighting of the most westerly beacon in the United Kingdom to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday.”

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has also praised the example of service set by the Queen.

On behalf of his party, Mr Nesbitt said: “Her Majesty has been a constant fixture in the life of the nation for many decades and is held in deep affection by millions of people, both within the United Kingdom and throughout the world.

“After ascending the throne in February 1952, the Queen became Head of State of a nation that was still emerging from the aftermath of the Second World War.

“She has been served by twelve prime ministers and everyone, whether a royalist or a republican, must surely recognise that this constitutes a phenomenal shift of public service.”

The UUP leader added: “There can surely be no better example of the respect and affection which Her Majesty inspires, than the warmth of the reception which the Queen received during her state visit to the Republic of Ireland in May 2011.

“On the occasion of her 90th Birthday, it is my great pleasure to wish her many happy returns on behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party.”

Presbyterian moderator Dr Ian McNie has described The Queen as “a constant in our time” and praised her devoted service to the nation - and to “the One who is King of Kings” - in a letter congratulating Her Majesty on her 90th birthday.

Among the events taking place in Northern Ireland on Thursday to mark the occasion is a 21 gun salute at her official Hillsborough Castle residence involving 206 (Ulster) Battery Royal Artillery.

A beacon will be lit on the front lawn of Belfast City Hall at 7.30pm, and another at Fisherman’s Quay in Carrickfergus at 9pm.

In east Belfast, a tea party for nonagenarians has been organised by the Mother’s Union celebrate their Royal Patron’s 90th birthday.

More than 40 nonagenarians will be the special guests at the celebration in St Donard’s parish centre on the Bloomfield Road.