Beattie pays tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II

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Beattie pays tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II

Speaking in the Northern Ireland Assembly today, the Ulster Unionist Party Leader Doug Beattie MC MLA said:

“The Queen is dead. On behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party I wish to pass on my condolences to the King, his brothers and sister and the wider family on the death of their mother, their grandmother, their great grandmother, our Queen.

And what a Queen she was - seventy glorious and at times difficult years that heralded a new Elizabethan age, one we never realised we were living through, until now.

The Queen reigned through massive political, social and economic change. The decline of empire and heavy industry and the rise of the Commonwealth. The cold war and the moon landings, war, terrorism and the growth of the internet.

Throughout these changes and challenges the Queen remained a constant, creating stability and a National focus.

Her Majesty the Queen had the knack of remaining current, accessible, approachable in a changing world. Although she would stand with Heads of State, Prime Ministers, Presidents and other Kings and Queens she never lost her common, personable touch.

Like many I have met the Queen and I look forward to some of the small humorous, quips that some may raise while we are here today. Yet I cannot – I cannot because I am deeply saddened by the loss of the Queen. There is grief that I feel, and many millions of people around the world are feeling grief as I stand here.

This is not something that I expected because we all knew the Queen was getting frailer and we knew this time would come. Yet watching her just 48 hours  before,  continuing to do her duty, nobody expected it to come so quickly.

I read my Oath of Allegiance to the Queen as a young solider aged just 16. I served beneath the Queen’s colours all my life, my transition from soldier to officer is marked by a Royal Commission hanging in my Stormont office signed by the Queen.

As distant as the Royal family could be, the Queen was ever present in our lives, my life. I was in uniform on Thursday evening when I heard of her passing. Her Majesty epitomised service.

That service and commitment to reconciliation on this island produced an extraordinary visit to Ireland in 2011. Showing courage, leadership and generosity of spirit she won the hearts of the Irish people forging links between the United Kingdom and Ireland as never before.

A kinship within these islands I hope we can rekindle once again.

The Queen also understood service. The award of the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross to the Home Service Battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment as well as presenting colours to the Ulster Defence Regiment, all done in person, crafted to recognise service.

In shaking the hand of the late Martin McGuinness a year after her visit to Ireland the Queen knew the symbolism of such an action. Although her family had been directly touched by the Troubles she knew that such a selfless act would generate a momentum to help heal deep wounds.

Something we must all be thankful for, be we young or old.

Many people don’t fully understand what a constitutional monarch is, yet it is explained best in the Queen’s own words.

‘I cannot lead you into battle. I do not give you laws or administer Justice. But I can do something else:

‘I can give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands, and to all the people of our brotherhood of Nations.’

Even as the Queen’s health began to fail we saw that devotion to duty and actions for the greater good of the Nation.  It was heart-breaking to see the Queen sit alone at her husband’s funeral, who she’d been married to for seventy-three years. But she knew she had to do that for the good of this Nation. Such was the example she set.

So often the words of Queen Elizabeth II have comforted a Nation in difficult times and it is with her words that I will finish.

‘To be inspirational you don’t have to save lives or win medals.

‘I often draw strength from meeting with ordinary people doing extraordinary things: volunteers, carers, community organisers and good neighbours; unsung heroes whose quiet dedication makes them special.’

The Queen is Dead, Long Live the King.”