Brenda Hale says she thought her OBE nomination was a 'joke'
Former DUP MLA Brenda Hale has said she found it easy to keep her OBE nomination a secret because at first she thought it was a joke.
Mrs Hale, widow of Capt Mark Hale, said she received a letter from the Cabinet Office a few weeks ago.
"A letter arrived from the cabinet office and that's quite official looking. It actually makes you a little bit nervous," said Mrs Hale.
"You think maybe this is a joke so you don't tell anybody."
Mrs Hale is among more than 90 people from Northern Ireland to be recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.
She entered politics after her husband was killed in Afghanistan.
Capt Hale died after being caught in an explosion while helping an injured colleague in August 2009.
She has two daughters, Victoria, 25, and Alexandra, 17.
"It has been incredibly humbling and emotional and the support and good wishes I've had through social media and phone calls and text has been overwhelming. It's an emotive day for me and my girls and for all those who shared our journey," said Mrs Hale.
Northern Ireland's recipients
Included in the honours list is Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin, who is among six people from the PSNI to be recognised.
Mr Martin has been awarded an OBE for services to policing and the community in Northern Ireland.
The chief inspector of criminal justice in Northern Ireland, Brendan McGuigan, receives a CBE, while chef Paula McIntyre gets an MBE.
Former Northern Ireland international women's football captain, Sara Booth, who now has a special projects role with Fifa, has also received an MBE.
George Thomas Alexander, who is described as "Head, Office of the Legislative Counsel, Northern Ireland", was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath.
In addition to Mr Martin's OBE, another police officer was awarded an MBE, but requested no publicity.
Queen's Police Medals (QPM) were awarded to Inspector Andrew Archibald, Detective Constable Paul Slaine and a third officer who also requested no publicity.
A BEM (British Empire Medal) has also been awarded to Patricia Roulston for services to policing.
Mr Martin has more than 32 years' service, and the PSNI said his present responsibilities include reactive and organised crime and public protection.
He said he felt "extremely privileged and honoured to have received this award".
"I regard this OBE as recognition for the entire police service and for all of the officers and staff I have served alongside over the years and for those I have had the honour to lead," he added.
"We have worked hard to serve all communities in Northern Ireland, often during challenging times, to make this a safer place for everyone.
"I would also like to thank and acknowledge the huge support I have received from my family throughout my career."
Paula McIntyre, who has been a guest chef on a number of BBC programmes, said she was delighted at her award of an MBE, and said it was "a miracle" she had managed to keep it a secret from her family.
"I only told them the other night. They were over the moon," she said.
"My mum and dad were quite reserved, but a couple of my friends were crying."
Ms McIntyre also revealed what meal she would serve up for the Queen, given the chance.
"It would be something simple like Portstewart lobsters, Comber Spuds with butter and some local cider to wash it all down with," she said.
"I am working this weekend at the Bushmills Salmon and Whiskey festival, so I will be disappointed if someone doesn't come down for a toast."
The honours system
Commonly awarded ranks:
- Companion of honour - Limited to 65 people. Recipients wear the initials CH after their name
- Knight or Dame
- CBE - Commander of the Order of the British Empire
- OBE - Officer of the Order of the British Empire
- MBE - Member of the Order of the British Empire
- BEM - British Empire Medal