Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II - Tributes (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:15 pm on 9 September 2022.

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Photo of Lord Dodds of Duncairn Lord Dodds of Duncairn DUP 2:15, 9 September 2022

My Lords, it is difficult to follow so many eloquent speeches that have already been given in the House by your Lordships this afternoon, but I rise to add few words on my own behalf and that of my noble friends in the Democratic Unionist Party, and on behalf of so many in Northern Ireland who feel the loss of Her Majesty so acutely today.

So many words have been spoken, yet, no matter how many or how eloquently expressed, they cannot do justice to the feelings that we experienced when we heard the dreadful news yesterday afternoon on the passing of Her Majesty. That shock was palpable; as the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, said, there is a sense not just of loss but that people are lost, in a bit of a limbo and worried about what might happen going forward.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, said, we knew this day would come but we wished that it would not. The sense of loss is acute. Her Majesty was a constant presence in our lives and in the life of our communities, and in each of the countries of our United Kingdom she is, or was, the embodiment—a mother and grandmother of our United Kingdom. It is hard to process.

We think today of her family and, in particular, the new King Charles III. We pray that he will know God’s blessing and guidance in the days ahead. He has to grieve and yet immediately assume the great duties, burdens and responsibilities of the monarchy. It reminds us, of course, that, at the tender age of 26, Her Majesty herself ascended to the throne while she desperately grieved his late Majesty King George VI; but she embraced her duties without hesitation, taking upon herself the mantle or duty and service.

Those beautiful words that she spoke on her 21st birthday,

“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service”,

have been fulfilled in the most exemplary way and with such grace. The qualities of integrity and great wisdom shone through brightly her entire life, with her great strength and stay his late Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh constantly at her side. What was striking to many of us was her deep Christian faith, so evident in her wonderful Christmas broadcasts. How we will miss sitting down on Christmas Day to hear the gentle words of Her Majesty speak to the entire nation. Today, as we look over decades of her service, we have been reminded in your Lordships’ House that, while many paid homage to her, she first placed her hands and her life in the hands of Christ the Lord himself. As we look back over 70 years, we are reminded of what the Bible says about life:

“For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

But Her Majesty has left behind such a legacy and example for us all.

People in Northern Ireland warmly welcomed every one of Her Majesty’s visits to our Province. People loved her. Even those who wish a different future for the Province held her in the highest esteem and with the greatest respect. I had the wonderful privilege, like many in this House, of meeting her on a number of occasions in different capacities. As Lord Mayor of Belfast in the late 1980s, I remember on one of Her Majesty’s visits, which were not very frequent then because of the security situation, she visited my former constituency in north Belfast. Two police officers had been badly injured the previous day in a terrorist attack, and her first words as we lined up to greet her and welcome her were to express concern and inquire after their health, which showed her compassion and deep concern for people in Northern Ireland, which was evident on many other visits that she made to the Province.

When she returned in 2012 for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, I remember the many tens of thousands who were able to turn out to the Stormont estate and welcome her. Her visits became more widely open to the public because of the improved security and political situation, which she warmly welcomed and of course played such an important part, in her quiet diplomatic way, in bringing about. Her visit to the Irish Republic will go down as one of the great significant milestones of Her Majesty’s reign and will be remembered as an important and significant milestone in the peace and political process.

In Northern Ireland, like other parts of this great United Kingdom, we will never forget Her Majesty’s steadfast support for and encouragement of our people through dark days and, gladly and wonderfully, brighter days in recent times. Thank you, Ma’am. God save the King.