Sinn Fein Councillor James McKeown has apologised for an “offensive” comment he made on social media following the Duke of Edinburgh’s death on Friday.
Speaking at a special meeting of Mid and East Antrim on Tuesday evening which was held remotely due to Covid restrictions, the Coast Road councillor said: “I would have liked to have been in the the chamber but circumstances did not allow this.
“I would also like to apologise for the offensive social media posts and note that they have been removed.
“I would like to offer on behalf of Councillor Ian Friary and myself condolences to all who hold Prince Philip in such high esteem and to his family who are now grieving for a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather and to those who knew him as a friend and confidante. May he rest in peace in the arms of an ever-loving God.”
The meeting was held for councillors to pay tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh who passed away at Windsor Castle on Friday at the age of 99.
Leading tributes was Mid and East Antrim Mayor Councillor Peter Johnston who asked councillors to stand for a minute’s silence.
He reported that 350 messages have been written in the authority’s online Book of Condolences.
He proceeded to extend heartfelt condolences to Her Majesty the Queen on behalf of the citizens of Mid and East Antrim.
Deputy Mayor Councillor Andrew Wilson said: “As Deputy Mayor of The Borough, I offer my condolences and sympathy on the death of His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh – to the Royal Family and especially to our Sovereign, Her Majesty The Queen.
“The United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and indeed the world, mourn the passing of the longest-serving Royal consort, a supporting husband to Her Majesty for a remarkable 73 years.
“He was a father figure of the Royal Family and of the nation; an ever present support to our Sovereign.
“It would be fitting if council explored options over the coming weeks and months as to how we could commemorate the Duke’s legacy – possibly involving schools in the borough on themes such as the environment or sport.”
DUP Group Leader Larne Lough Councillor Gregg McKeen said: “In our society, the call to public service is one which is at the heart of our constitution,
“We can take no better example of outstanding public service than His Royal Highness Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh. He dedicated his life for over 70 years to improving and enhancing the lives of millions of people together with improving the environment and the world around us.
“It was consoling to hear the words of Her Majesty’s children and grandchildren indicating that they will rally round her and take care of her during this time in public mourning, private sorrow and in the future. This is what Prince Philip would have wished of them.
He noted that Prince Philip was associated with 992 charities and organisations.
“There are many in this borough who have benefited from these interests and in particular the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. He equipped our young people from all communities to build skills, confidence and resilience for life.”
Ulster Unionist Group Leader Larne Lough Councillor Keith Turner stated: “Prince Philip was not a man for fuss.”
He went on to say that he met him on “several occasions” at military events in his role as Regimental Colonel of the Grenadier Guards.
“He was a man of infinite charm. He had a great ability to put people at their ease, always very well briefed and asked the most pertinent questions so you always had to be on your toes when he was about.
“His quips sometimes got him into bother but never done maliciously but showed his human side.
“Prince Philip was a man of his time, a family man, an inspirational leader. At this moment, it feels as though we have all lost a very good friend.”
Knockagh councillor Alderman Noel Williams, Wing Commander, also recalled a meeting with Prince Philip.
He told the meeting that he had been serving at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus when Her Majesty and the Duke when he and his wife with other members of the officers’ mess had the honour of dining with the Royal couple.
“That was a wonderful day and we will never forget the effortless ease with which they won the hearts of officers, servicemen and women and their families as they walked among us.”
Commenting on the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, he said: “One can be in little doubt what the success of that youth programme has contributed to the health and well-being of so many. He himself referred to it as a ‘Do it Yourself Growing Up Kit’.
“His vision for young people has never been more relevant or needed and if any region of the United Kingdom should be aware of that relevancy, it is here, right now and incredibly being manifested on our streets at the time of his passing.”
He went on to say that the Duke made 52 visits to Northern Ireland.
“We very much respect the contribution Her Majesty and His Royal Highness have made to peace in Northern Ireland and indeed throughout this island. They were prepared to reach out their hand across the divide to all.”
TUV Group Leader Councillor Matthew Armstrong continued: “He was someone with his own views and not afraid to voice them, no matter how colourful.
“He will always be remembered as someone who managed to connect with millions throughout the world and through the fantastic Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. There would not be a better example of service and legacy than this.”
Ballymena SDLP Councillor Eugene Reid commented: “I would like to express my sincere condolences from myself and those of my party to Queen Elizabeth and her family on the loss of her beloved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather.
“This is an immensely difficult time for them compounded by restrictions which have made saying goodbye so difficult for people and families across our islands.
“I would also like to send my sincere condolences to people in communities across Northern Ireland who feel a special connection and affinity with Prince Philip and the Royal Family. This is a sorrowful time and our thoughts are with you.
He added: “It would be remiss of me to fail to acknowledge that Philip and his family were directly affected by the conflict on this island and between these islands. We should also reflect on the role he played alongside his wife the Queen in building relationships, setting aside enmity and promoting reconciliation most visibly during their most recent visit to Ireland.”
Carrickfergus DUP councillor Alderman Billy Ashe said: ” I believe this council should mark the memory of the Duke of Edinburgh. I welcome the Deputy Mayor’s comments. I believe this is a subject I will return to and indeed I hope this council will return to at a more appropriate date.
“In the meantime, I know I speak for all our community in offering Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth our sincere condolences at this very sad time.”
Story by Michelle Weir, BBC Local Democracy Reporter