First Minister the Rt Hon Peter D Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP, MLA have expressed their deep sadness at the passing of three members of the Spence family in a tragic accident at their family farm in Hillsborough yesterday.
The Ministers said: "It was with great sadness that we learned of the sudden and tragic passing of Noel Spence and his sons Nevin and Graham in an accident on their family farm yesterday.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Spence family at this extremely sad time and pass on our deepest condolences to them. We understand another member of the family, Emma, has been hospitalised following the accident and we wish her a full and speedy recovery.
“This tragedy has shocked the entire community and is a terrible reminder to us all of the dangers of farming life. Our thoughts are also with farmers everywhere at this time.
“Nevin was a rising star of local rugby and it is only a matter of months ago, in happier times, that we had the honour of hosting him and his colleagues at a reception in Parliament Buildings to celebrate the achievement of Ulster in reaching the Heineken Cup final. His untimely death is a blow for the game in the province and we sympathise with his teammates and everyone at Ulster Rugby who have lost a true colleague and friend."
Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill has expressed her condolences to the Spence family who tragically lost three family members in a farm accident yesterday evening.
Minister O'Neill said: "I am shocked and deeply saddened to learn of this terrible tragedy which has hit this hard working farming family. My thoughts and prayers are with Noel, Graham and Nevin and their family and friends at this extremely difficult time. I also hope and pray that Emma Spence who was also involved in this accident makes a full recovery."
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: "I want to express my sincere sympathies to the Spence family following the deaths of Noel Spence and his two sons Graham and Nevin who was a rising Ulster Rugby star.
"This tragic accident has devastated a family and my thoughts and prayers are with them at this very difficult time.
"I understand that another family member Emma Spence, is currently in hospital following the accident and we all hope that she makes a full recovery."
Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety Edwin Poots has expressed his sympathy for the family of Noel, Graham and Nevin Spence following yesterday's tragic accident in Hillsborough.
He said: "I have known the Spence family for many years and it is difficult to comprehend the grief that they are suffering after such a terrible accident. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and their friends. I also want to wish Emma a full and speedy recovery. The loss of Noel, Graham and Nevin is being felt right across the community.
"I know that the firefighters, paramedics and medical staff who did everything in their power to save Noel, Graham and Nevin are devastated by what has unfolded. There is a sense of shock and disbelief across Northern Ireland today.
Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin has paid tribute to Ulster rugby player Nevin Spence and his father and brother who lost their lives in a farm accident in Hillsborough, and to Fermanagh County GAA player Brian ÓG Maguire, who died on Thursday following an accident.
The Minister said: "The loss of two talented sports players, and also a father and a brother, in such tragic circumstances is a tragedy for both the Spence and Maguire families. My sincere sympathy is extended to them at this extremely difficult time. My thoughts and prayers are with them all, and also with Nevin's sister Emma who is currently in hospital.
"Nevin and Brian were committed sports players and their untimely deaths are not only a loss to their immediate families, but also to the sporting organisations they represented and to their wider communities. Ulster GAA and Ulster Rugby are two of the great provincial sporting codes which unite society. Brian Og and Nevin were wonderful examples for their respective sports.
"I offer my condolences to both the Ulster and Ballynahinch rugby teams on the tragic loss of Nevin, and to the Ulster, Fermanagh and Lisnaskea GAA community on the loss of Brian, both of whom will be sadly missed."