Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill led tributes on Monday to Noah Donohoe, the Belfast teenager whose body was found on Saturday, after he had been missing since the previous Sunday.
First Minister Ms Foster said Noah’s family had been robbed of a boy who had a bright future ahead of him while Deputy First Minister Ms O’Neill said people were “heartbroken” for the teenager and for his mother, Fiona and their family.
Police are still trying to piece together the final moments of Noah’s life and how and why he entered a storm drain in north Belfast where his body was discovered on Saturday morning.
Police continue to examine the possibility that his death may be related to a suspected head injury he suffered after falling off his bicycle as he was travelling from his home off the Ormeau Road in south Belfast to north Belfast.
It remains unclear why he took that trip. One theory currently being explored is that he was planning to climb Cave Hill which overlooks north Belfast.
He was seen taking off his clothes and then riding naked in north Belfast, actions which his family said were “completely out of character”.
A private funeral will be held for Noah on Wednesday. The family said that “sadly” the Mass would be private because of the Covid-19 restrictions. His remains will be taken to St Patrick’s Church on Donegall Street in central Belfast for 11 am Mass.
After the service the cortege will travel to St Malachy’s College in north Belfast where Noah was a gifted and popular pupil.
A funeral family notice for Noah said that he was “taken into the loving arms of God on the week of 21st June 2020”.
“Noah’s beautiful pure young soul fills the hearts of his mother Fiona, his aunts Niamh and Shona and their beautiful children and his uncle Gearoid,” it read.
“He comforts his grandparents Margot, Gerry and Linda and his beautiful strong friends. He will be safe in the hugs of his aunt Siobhan in heaven,” it added.
Police and rescue services and hundreds of volunteers took part in the search for Noah through last week.
Noah’s family in the notice again showed their appreciation to all those who had assisted. “Noah’s love was great enough to reach the selfless hearts of north Belfast and beyond as they showed overwhelming compassion and empathy in bringing Noah home,” they said.
Noah’s family said he was “blessed” to have been part of the “St Malachy’s family”. His classmates and fellow students and teachers are set to line the grounds of the school when the cortege makes its way through the college after Noah’s funeral Mass on Wednesday.
The school principal, Paul McBride in turn said St Malachy’s had “been blessed to have had such an outstanding student and person as a most valued member of our family, one who was already exhibiting the characteristics of a true Malachian, finding and doing his best by living our motto, gloria ab intus (glory from within)”.
Mr McBride described Noah as a natural leader who led by example, a talented young cellist, a keen and competitive basketball and rugby player, a teenager with a caring nature and a calm demeanour, and a big smile.
Mr McBride recalled how “one of his teachers and coach said that Noah had a heart of a lion, being able to express himself on the pitch, shouting, laughing and having fun with his friends whilst in class he was normally measured and modest”.
The young teenager's death prompted a huge outpouring of grief. Vigils were held for him in north Belfast and Strabane, where his mother is from, on Sunday night.
North Belfast Sinn Féin councillor, JJ Magee, who assisted in the search, said people were still numbed by Noah’s death.
That the whole community came together on Sunday night in two vigils for Noah, he said, “showed that so many people in the community wanted to help, and were touched by him.”