Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer said he shed tears of joy when he was told he was to receive a knighthood.
Dr Michael McBride, who has played a prominent role in the region’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, is one of the most high-profile local names in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Attorney General Brenda King has been made a dame, Irish language activist Linda Ervine becomes an MBE, as does legendary Irish league football manager David Jeffrey.
Former Irish rugby international Nigel Carr is also made an MBE while long-serving Northern Ireland women’s international footballer Julie Nelson is honoured with the British Empire Medal.
Chairman of the NI Police Federation Mark Lindsay is also made an MBE.
Dr McBride, 58, said he was overcome with emotion when he was told of his knighthood and cried.
“I’m not ashamed to say that, I felt very emotional,” he told the PA news agency.
“I think it’s just a manifestation of the fact that it’s been a tough year for each and every one of us.
“And you know it will continue to be tough in the months ahead and to have any contribution that I have made recognised in this way I feel honoured and I feel very, very privileged indeed.”
Dr McBride, who is originally from north Belfast, paid tribute to all the colleagues who had supported him through a distinguished career in the health service.
He made special mention of his wife Catherine and four children Anastasia, Sophia, Matthew and Alicia.
“Holding public office and public service is a great honour and a privilege but sometimes the burden of that responsibility weighs heavily on your shoulders and certainly also on those closest to you,” he said.
“So I’m really chuffed to bits for my wife Catherine and for our four children.”
The CMO, who described the challenge of the pandemic as “unrelenting”, said the prospect of being referred to as Sir Michael felt “surreal”.
“I sort of have to pinch myself and think is this really happening? Am I standing here talking about me?,” he said.
“But I always remember the words of my late father – ‘never forget the bowl you were baked in’.
“And I never have and I never will.
“I’m absolutely delighted and I’m absolutely thrilled and I feel deeply honoured and privileged to being recognised this way.”
Attorney General Ms King said it was a “very proud day” for her and her family.
“I am truly humbled to receive the award of Dame Commander of the Order of the Bath in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list,” she said.
“I have devoted my professional life to the law and have worked with some outstanding individuals throughout my career.
“Whilst this is a great personal honour, it also reflects on the quality and commitment of those colleagues I have worked with over the years, in particular from the Office of the Legislative Counsel in Northern Ireland.
“The quality of the legislation produced by Northern Ireland is held in the highest regard internationally, a point that was repeatedly made to me during my two year tenure as President of the Commonwealth Association of Legislative Counsel.”
Mr Lindsay, 54, has been a police officer since 1987 and has represented rank and file officers as the head of the federation since 2015.
“I am humbled to receive this honour, which recognises the immense charitable and welfare support given to serving and retired police officers and their families in Northern Ireland and across the United Kingdom,” he said.
“I will continue to do all I can to assist colleagues and their families who need welfare assistance, whilst also ensuring the memory of hundreds of officers who paid the ultimate price in the line of duty is never forgotten.”