Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has officially welcomed home local Olympic and Paralympic athletes, ahead of a reception at Parliament Buildings, Stormont.

The Minister said: “The Olympic and Paralympic Games is one of the competitions that the Executive, through the Sport Matters strategy, targeted for medal success. Olympic and Paralympic athletes from this part of Ireland have responded magnificently to that challenge. To win 12 medals at the Games is a remarkable achievement.

“Before the Olympic and Paralympic Games, I wished every success to all our athletes from Ireland. They have shone on the biggest stage of all, competing with the best in the world and making heroes of themselves in the process.

“Now, it is my pleasure to welcome these same people back – our Olympians, our Paralympians, our medallists and our sporting legends.

“Individually there have been dozens of memorable moments. Collectively, they have written one of the biggest and most colourful chapters in the north’s sporting history. What Olympians and Paralympians from Ireland have done will stand as a benchmark for sporting success and will inspire tomorrow’s athletes.

“While I acknowledge the medal winners, all athletes have experiences and stories to share, and all have played their part in something extraordinary. Today they can be rightly proud of everything they have achieved. Each and every one of them has been an ambassador for their sport, for their community and for themselves.

“To cap all that has been accomplished, Team Ireland double-gold winner Michael McKillop received a special award as the male athlete who best exemplifies the spirit of the Games. It is a fitting and timely honour for a man who sets an example to others both on and off the field of competition.

“A culture of lifelong success in sport is a key part of the long term vision for sport in this part of Ireland.

“Our athlete’s achievements will inspire people across the north – young and old, able-bodied and disabled – to get involved in sport. It is my hope also that they will encourage many to believe in themselves, and begin a journey that will take them to world class levels, and perhaps international medals.

“It is also important to recognise the coaches, families and support staff behind the athletes, as well as the local volunteers who helped make these Games happen.”