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Queen has been a leader in showing how not to fear 'the other', says DUP's Foster

First Minister Arlene Foster reflects on the Queen's 90 years

Tomorrow we will celebrate the 90th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The Queen has given us the second Elizabethan age bringing stability and continuity to her kingdom and her people. In the future many will look back at her reign and ask what it was like to have lived through such a time.

As a child, I remember the Queen on horseback at what I now know was the Trooping of the Colour. It was always watched in the Kelly house on our old black and white television set. My mother and father were avowed royalists. Since childhood I also have been a loyal observer of the Queen.

I am honoured and humbled that tomorrow evening, as First Minister of Northern Ireland, I will attend, with the Lord Lieutenant of County Fermanagh, the lighting of the most westerly beacon in the United Kingdom to mark Her Majesty The Queen's 90th birthday.

We will also attend a service of thanksgiving and celebration in St Macartan's Cathedral, Enniskillen. Bands from Portora Royal School and St Michael's College will play before the service in recognition of the cross-community nature of the event.

Her Majesty has led our community to value difference and not to be afraid of the 'other'.

She has given inspired leadership in this regard particularly in Enniskillen when she famously crossed the street from the Church of Ireland Cathedral to St Michael's Roman Catholic Church.

I have had the privilege to meet Her Majesty on a number of occasions. Each time I have come away feeling she is something very special.

For me as a woman, a mother, a Christian and a leader she provides such a good example of how to live one's life. She is a strong woman and a caring mother. She has a simple Anglican faith and a tremendous sense of duty which she has lived with all her life.

As a young woman she joined an organisation close to my heart, Guiding. She became a girl guide and the royal family has always had a close association with a movement which inspires, encourages and motivates young women. The Countess of Wessex is currently the head of Guiding in the United Kingdom carrying on this royal tradition. The Brownies and the Girl Guides were so important to me as a young person during the 1970s and 1980s.

I then became a Guide leader and even now look back at my time in Guiding as so rewarding. I love to follow my former Guides' progress just as teachers follow their students. One of them is now the County commissioner for Fermanagh!

Her Majesty was married in 1947. With the country still recovering from the Second World War, it was a modest wedding by royal standards. Indeed, I love the fact that the Queen, just like all the other brides at that time, collected clothing tokens for her wedding dress. That act speaks volumes about her character and her desire to lead by example. The Queen has not wavered with fads of populism. She does what she believes is right and stays the course. In the modern era of 'living in the moment', she represents the long view.

Indeed, it's easy to forget that when the Queen ascended to the throne, Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister and Harry Truman was the US President. Her Majesty is someone who has seen presidents and prime ministers come and go but yet she remains steadfast.

Whilst she delivered her first speech in 1940, Her Majesty has a work-rate that would put people half her age to shame. She is the patron of over 600 charitable organisations.

Each and every one of these groups can testify to the benefit that her involvement brings in aiding them to achieve their goals.

The Queen has made it easier for friendships and alliances to be forged in the United Kingdom's national interest. Any person who thinks the Queen is simply a titular head of state is mistaken. From experience I know that she keeps herself fully informed of domestic and foreign affairs. She is guided by a desire to protect and promote the well-being of her people.

As a nation we are indeed blessed to have a monarch of such wisdom and longevity. For me, I can find no other woman in the public eye who inspires me more. Thank you Your Majesty and happy birthday Ma'am.

Belfast Telegraph

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