North Antrim TUV MLA Jim Allister has paid tribute in Stormont to eight-year-old Dunloy schoolboy Robert Christie who died following a farm accident at the eeekend.
Addressing the Assembly, Mr Allister said: “I am sure that we all recall the great cloud of despair and sorrow that descended on the Province in the autumn of 2012, when three members of the Spence family tragically lost their life.
“Sadly, on Saturday afternoon, we had a revisiting of such horrendous circumstances, this time in the constituency of North Antrim and made all the more poignant by the fact that the primary victim of the tragedy was but an eight-year-old boy who lost his life. His father is fighting for his life after they were overcome by the unseen killer of noxious gases from a slurry tank.
“I am sure that the hearts of us all go out to that family: to the devastated mother, Simone, and the boy’s two elder sisters, Isobel and Alice, and, of course, our thoughts are very much with the father, Bertie, as he struggles to overcome what has beset him.
“I am sure that it is the prayer of us all that he will, indeed, recover; because that family will need the strength and support of a father in the coming weeks and months.
“Our thoughts today are also with the community in the Knockahollett area and the Ballyweaney Church community, the Presbyterian church to which the Christie family were attached.
“Our thoughts are also today with Knockahollet Primary School, which faces the first of many sad days. Yesterday, when I spoke to the principal and he talked about young Robert, it was clear that he was exactly the sort of young boy that any of us would be privileged to have as a son or grandson.
“A great void will be felt in the family, first and foremost, in the wider community and in the school community, where they will also have to cope with the fact that the two elder girls are also pupils. When they return to school, they too will need all the pastoral care and love that a country primary school excels at. I have every confidence that that will be provided to them.
“I am glad to have the opportunity to raise this issue. It is also important to reflect on the scale of losses on our farms. Many take farming for granted, but it is a dangerous occupation: 40 people have lost their lives in six years. That is a sobering statistic, and I think that we all would exhort that the maximum care and attention be taken to all things agricultural,” he concluded.