Duke was regular visitor to NI and his legacy remains strong

Political and civic leaders in Northern Ireland have been marking the death of the Duke of Edinburgh over the weekend and the NI Assembly will sit today on Monday for further tributes.

Sunday, 11th April 2021, 5:22 pm
Members of the public have left florals tributes to the Duke of Edinburgh at Hillsborough Castle. Photo: Philip Magowan / Press Eye

There have also been military tributes, including a 41-gun salute at Hillsborough Castle in Co Down – the Queen’s official residence in Northern Ireland.

All of the Province’s 11 councils have opened books of condolence which can be signed online due to the pandemic.

Political leaders, including the first and deputy first ministers and the Archbishop of Armagh, have already sent condolences to the Queen.

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Soldiers from 206 Battery, 105 Royal Artillery take part in a gun salute to the Duke of Edinburgh takes place at Hillsborough Castle. Photo: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

The Queen had been married to Prince Philip for 73 years.

Flags are being flown at half-mast on government and other buildings across Northern Ireland during the period of mourning ahead of the funeral at Windsor Castle on Saturday.

Floral tributes have also been left at the gates of Hillsborough Castle, which Prince Philip visited on his last trip to Northern Ireland in 2017.

This morning NI Assembly sitting will adjourn for the remained of the day following tributes to the Duke.

Duke of Edinburgh standing in an open topped Range Rover as part of the Queen's 90th birthday celebrations in The Mall, London in 2016. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast has described Prince Philip as “a dedicated servant of our country,” from his war service with the Royal Navy, “to faithfully fulfilling his duties as the Queens consort, also in his role as the Duke of Edinburgh.”

In a statement, the lodge added: “he County Grand Lodge stands with the nation, as together we mourn his passing and pray God’s strength and comfort for Her Majesty at this time of great personal sadness.”

Many people have highlighted the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) awards scheme for young people as Prince Philip’s greatest legacy.

DofE director in Northern Ireland Kate Thompson said the award programme was something the Duke “held dear to his heart and was absolutely passionate about”.

Kate Thompson, director of the Duke of Edinburgh Award in Northern Ireland.

She said: “He remained very committed to it until he retired. He attended every Gold [award] presentation in Northern Ireland and presented the awards to the young people.

“He was always hugely interested in what they had done for their different activities and what difference it had made to their lives.”

Ms Thompson said the DofE patron and founder was “extremely humble” and always paid tribute to the staff and volunteers who delivered the programme.

“Our programme wouldn’t operate if it wasn’t for our team of volunteers.

“We have around 1,600 people in Northern Ireland who give up their free time to actually deliver those programmes and we hope they will continue to do so.

“I think they get a lot out of it too, when the see the difference that it makes to the young people that they work with.

“Young people need us now more than they have ever done.”

Last year 6,018 young people started their programmes in the Northern Ireland and 3,277 DofE awards were achieved.

Across the UK, almost seven million young people have benefitted from taking on the personal challenge and volunteering opportunities offered by the DofE scheme.

Ms Thompson said: “Some of the research that we have done shows that doing this programme does create stronger mental health, and young people who do the programme definitely have better employment prospects and better educational outcomes.

“So I think all of that is a huge legacy that he has left, and one that is important that we continue to support and to drive forward.”

The NI’s programme director said that the DofE organisation operates in 130 countries around the world, and that it’s work will continue following the Duke’s death.

She also said that the Duke’s passing has raised awareness of the benefits of the DofE scheme.

“We know that the impact of the programme is greatest on those who come from marginalised groups, so our new strategy focuses on that aspect, to try to reach more young people coming from difficult backgrounds.”

Ms Thompson added: “So we are striving forward at the minute to try to reach as many young people as we possible can.”

The charity is now calling for anyone involved in the DofE over the decades – including alumni and volunteers – to get in touch and share their DofE stories and memories at DofE.org.