Belfast Telegraph

Assembly sends tributes to soldier

The Assembly's political parties have united to express sympathy for the family of a soldier killed in Afghanistan.

Cross-party condolences were extended to the family of Royal Irish Regiment soldier Stephen McKee who was killed in a bombing last week.

While all parties backed a DUP motion on the bereaved family's loss, there were also calls for governments to help bring an end to the conflict.

The DUP's Stephen Moutray, who raised the soldier's death at the Assembly, said: "My own constituency of Upper Bann has borne a terrible load of sorrow and loss in recent times.

"Last July we had the killing, also in Afghanistan, of young Gurkha Lieutenant Neal Turkington from Portadown.

"And now another family in our midst mourns a young life cut short and a brave young man taken away from them".

Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy said: "Tragically in April 1981 Stephen's uncle Richard, also aged 27, and also holding the rank of Lance Corporal, was cruelly murdered while serving in the UDR (Ulster Defence Regiment), murdered by the IRA.

"The McKee family has known service, sacrifice and sadness, but in the midst of their unimaginable grief on the loss of a dearly loved son, they take, and are entitled to, considerable pride in what Stephen stood for and sought to achieve."

Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd said: "I hope this is the last time that we have to rise in this chamber and comment on the death of a young man like Stephen McKee, or indeed reflect on the terrible carnage that is going on in Afghanistan."

The SDLP's Dolores Kelly also extended her party's sympathy to the soldier's loved ones and said she hoped governments would bring the "cruel war" in Afghanistan to an end.

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