First Minister Arlene Foster has joined in the annual tribute to the Armed Forces during a ceremony hosted by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council today.
The First Minister and her Junior Minister, Gordon Lyons, were among a small group of dignitaries, including the Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim David McCorkell, Mayor Cllr Peter Johnston, and representatives from the Armed Forces, who attended the socially distanced commemoration.
The event marked the start of this year’s Armed Forces Day celebrations with the flying of the Armed Forces Flag at Council buildings in Ballymena, Larne and Carrickfergus.
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, events across the UK have been scaled back or will take place virtually; but members of the public are still encouraged to show their support and appreciation for serving and former members of the Armed Forces and their families.
First Minister Arlene Foster said:
“I consider it an honour to be part of this act of celebration and thanksgiving for our Armed Forces. I am pleased to join representatives of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council – alongside those present from Armed Forces – as we stand in fellowship with people across the UK and beyond to mark Armed Forces Day.
“This event always brings a range of emotions, but the overriding sense today is of pride: pride in our Armed Forces and appreciation for the great work they have done and continue to do.”
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Peter Johnston, added: “Our borough has a long and proud connection with our Armed Forces, and I was delighted this year to welcome the First Minister and her Junior Minister, along with the other distinguished guests, as we marked the start of the 2020 Armed Forces Day celebrations.
“As with every year, this was an opportunity for us to show our appreciation for our brave service personnel, past and present, and salute their resilience and courage.
“This was particularly poignant during the year of the 75th Anniversary of VE Day, when we have been remembering the valiant efforts of all those who gave their lives in service, and their families.”
Junior Minister Gordon Lyons said: “These are clearly unusual and uncertain times, but our support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces remains resolute.
“From currently serving troops to Service families, veterans and cadets – those close to home and those in far flung corners of the globe – we thank them all. I’m sure the genuine sense of gratitude felt by those here today is mirrored across the borough and much further afield.”
Colonel John Rollins MBE, Chief Executive of the Reserve Forces & Cadets Association NI (RFCA), who attended the ceremony along with representatives of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force, said:
“On behalf of the MOD and all three Services, we are grateful for the efforts made by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council – along with those elsewhere in Northern Ireland – to mark the beginning of Armed Forces Week.
“Throughout the UK, the Armed Forces cherish their links with all parts of the community for whom they serve and are particularly proud of their long and reciprocal relationship with the borough of Mid and East Antrim.”
A ceremony was also held in Coleraine.