Premier David Burt today expressed condolences to the Government and people of the British Virgin Islands, with word “that the sister Overseas Territory’s longest serving elected representative and former Chief Minister and Premier Ralph O’Neal had passed away”.

In a statement released this afternoon, Mr Burt said: “Ralph O’Neal was a powerful voice on behalf of the people of the British Virgin Islands.

“He was a leading Caribbean statesman who commanded great respect among the leaders of the Overseas Territories.”

The former PM “studied economics at Oxford University and served BVI as leader of the opposition, Chief Minister and Premier”.

“On behalf of the Government and people of Bermuda I send our thoughts and prayers to his family, his political colleagues and to the people of the BVI In whose service he spent so much of his life,” said Premier Burt.

Mr O’Neal, who died on Monday (November 11); after being ill for some time, was just over “a month shy of his 86th birthday”.

Virgin Island News Online reports: “The Office of the Premier has since released a Bulletin informing of Hon O’Neal’s passing.”

He retired from active politics in 2015 after some 40 years as an elected member from 1975 through to 2015.

Mr O’Neal “was the first Premier of the British Overseas Territory of the VI and the second Chairman of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP), serving after the party’s first Chairman and Founder H Lavity Stoutt”.

The website also extended condolences on behalf of “management and staff of Virgin Islands News Online to the family and friends of the late Honourable Ralph T O’Neal, OBE”,