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Sinn Fein MLA heaps praise on the Duke of Edinburgh Awards

Maskey applauds enthusiasm of the participants

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Alex Maskey

Alex Maskey

The late Duke of Edinburgh

The late Duke of Edinburgh

/

Alex Maskey

Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey has highlighted the benefits of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards in broadening the horizons of young people.

The Sinn Fein MLA made his comments yesterday when he took part in a virtual event with those who have completed the various levels of the awards.

The event included over 45 recipients from across Northern Ireland, six of whom spoke directly about their experiences and how the award has benefited their lives.

Also in attendance was the director of Gaisce - The Irish President's Award - which works closely with the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

It comes after Mr Maskey and his Sinn Fein colleagues paid tribute to Prince Philip in the Assembly in the days following his death on April 9.

Mr Maskey told MLAs the Duke of Edinburgh awards had a massive reach and an admirable record of empowering young people and helping develop their opportunity, adding: "His priority was on opening the door for young people to participate, whatever their background."

Since it was set up in 1956, the worldwide award scheme has "helped countless young people on their sometimes difficult path to adulthood", according to Prince Philip.

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"It's what I like to describe as a do-it-yourself growing-up kit," he once said.

Mr Maskey yesterday said while the scheme is long established, its mission to broaden the horizons of young people to give them confidence in their abilities remains as relevant as ever.

The West Belfast MLA added: "It's been a great pleasure to hear about those experiences first hand with young people who have achieved so much through their participation in the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

"I know that the purpose of this initiative is to broaden the horizons of the young people who take part, to introduce them to new activities and to give them confidence in their own abilities.

"Since its inception in 1956, thousands of our young people have taken part and enjoyed the challenges that the Bronze, Silver and Gold levels provide them.

"I have been impressed by the breadth of activities undertaken and can only applaud the enthusiasm shown today by these recipients," he said.

Mr Maskey's comments come after it emerged his party leader Mary Lou McDonald has written to the Queen and Prince Charles to express her condolences over the death of Prince Philip.

Sinn Fein confirmed earlier this week that Ms McDonald had written to the two senior royals following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, but provided no further comment on the private correspondence.

It is understood that Ms McDonald wrote to the Queen and Prince Charles on April 10, the day after the Duke of Edinburgh's death was announced.

The emergence of the private correspondence to the Queen and the heir to the throne came days after Ms McDonald apologised for the murder of Lord Mountbatten, who was the Duke of Edinburgh's uncle.

Lord Mountbatten died along with two family members - Nicholas Knatchbull and Lady Doreen Brabourne - and Co Fermanagh teenager Paul Maxwell when the IRA detonated a bomb on his fishing boat in Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, in 1979.

Ms McDonald told Times Radio on Sunday, a day after Prince Philip's funeral: "I'm sorry that happened. It was heartbreaking."


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