DUP leader Arlene Foster has issued a Christmas message thanking the Armed Forces and frontline emergency workers for their efforts throughout 2018.
The former Northern Ireland first minister has also asked people to consider calling on neighbours who could be experiencing loneliness or struggling to cope with bereavement.
Working to get a better deal on Brexit is also said to be a priority for 2019.
Mrs Foster’s message in full:
“I always look forward to Christmas Day. It’s the one day of the year when our phones usually ring a lot less and we are able to enjoy some quiet time with our families whether at home or at church.
“We pause and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and then consider His life as a teacher, forgiver, healer and Saviour.
“In a world where technology is taking more and more of our time and face-to-face interaction seems to take second place, I look forward to some old fashioned board games with family where the phones are placed out of reach for a while. “In all the excitement and wonder which this time of year can bring into homes, we should also take time to thank those working both at home and abroad, who will not be able to spend time with their families.
“I commend those serving in the Armed Forces especially, who will be far from family but doing so to protect our United Kingdom. I am glad the DUP has stood up for our service personnel and veterans to ensure they are properly rewarded and cared for.
“We should also be grateful to our frontline workers and emergency services who will keep us safe and provide vital services in our hospitals over Christmas. Each year, they sacrifice spending time with their family so others can receive the care and support they need. I am very proud that our Confidence and Supply Agreement has been able to deliver a much-needed funding boost for our frontline services.
“Whilst Christmas is a time of celebration and joy, it is also a time of sadness for those who will have an empty chair on Christmas Day. We should also consider our elderly neighbours, who aren’t able to be out and out about in the way they once could.
“Loneliness can be a terrible experience for our older people. A quick phone call or a short visit can lift their spirits and give that little bit of encouragement.
“Whether globally, within the United Kingdom or locally in Northern Ireland, there has been incredible uncertainty in 2018. Where the Party has been involved, we have sought to work for sensible solutions.
“On Brexit in particular, I know some are very concerned at the uncertainty. I appreciate those concerns are grounded in a love to see their sectors succeed.
“For our part, we want a solution which will work for Northern Ireland but not undermine the economic or constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom. We will work resolutely in the coming weeks to get a better deal and ensure the backstop is defeated.
“However, against the backdrop of so much uncertainty, the Christmas message remains. This time of year encourages us to study the attributes of Christ’s life where He taught us by example.
“From my family in Fermanagh, I wish you a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.”