Jason Smyth attended the event at Stormont three months after being snubbed at the Lap of Legends ©Getty Images

Jason Smyth was among a number of Northern Irish athletes who competed at the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games to attend an event to celebrate their achievements at the Parliament Buildings in Belfast.

The five-time Paralympic gold medallist, who won the T13 100 metres in the Brazilian city, was present at Stormont three months after he was not included in a "Lap of Legends" event at Windsor Park.

Smyth, who was born in Derry, claimed his decision to represent the Republic of Ireland was behind the decision not to include him, but he was eventually invited to a international football match between the nation he was born in and Croatia in November.

Also present at Stormont were Bethany Firth, a winner of three swimming gold medals and one silver at last year’s Paralympics, and Michael McKillop, who defended his men's 1,500m T37 title in Rio. 

The athletes were welcomed to the Parliament Buildings, commonly known as Stormont because of its location in the Stormont Estate area of Belfast, by Sports Minister Paul Givan and Junior Minister Alastair Ross.

"I am immensely proud that athletes from Northern Ireland competed in the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games, which are the very highest level of international competition and one of the most celebrated world-wide sporting events," Givan was reported as saying on the Democratic Unionist Party website.

"It was an outstanding achievement for all of our athletes to have competed at such a prestigious event."

Givan also highlighted the importance of the support network behind each athlete, including family, friends, coaches, sports governing bodies, Sport Northern Ireland and the Sports Institute Northern Ireland.

"The support of all the people behind the scenes is vital for the athletes to excel at the sport they love," he said. 

"My department will continue to provide support to athletes, coaches and sports governing bodies, from a grassroots level right through to high performance. 

"I am committed to making sport more accessible for everyone, particularly for females and people with disabilities, as shown by my announcements of over £400,000 ($495,000/€463,000) of extra funding.

Michael McKillop won the 1,500m T37 gold medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games ©Getty Images
Michael McKillop won the 1,500m T37 gold medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games ©Getty Images

"I have given funding to support female participation in sport and also committed extra funding for people with disabilities which will remove many barriers to accessing sport and physical recreation."

During the event, Givan acknowledged the current work being carried out by the Department for Communities, part of the Northern Ireland Executive, and Sport Northern Ireland to increase sporting opportunities for under-represented groups like females and those with disabilities.

Ross added: "Sport has a very positive impact on our lives, physically and mentally, as participants, spectators and fans. 

"Our Olympic and Paralympic athletes from Northern Ireland are great role models and ambassadors, encouraging and inspiring others to take part and get involved.

"I congratulate all of Northern Ireland’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes on their magnificent achievements, and wish them all continued success and enjoyment of their sports long into the future."

Northern Ireland's status as a part of the United Kingdom is disputed with its athletes able to represent both sides of the border.

Smyth had highlighted that there were four Paralympic gold medallists from Northern Ireland, including his Republic of Ireland colleague McKillop.

The pair were not invited to the event, but Alpine skier Kelly Gallagher and Firth, who both competed for Britain at their most recent Games, were part of the proceedings.

Golf superstar Rory McIlroy claimed earlier this month he "resents" the Olympic Games for forcing him to choose between competing for Britain or Ireland.

The Northern Irishman, a four-time Major winner, was one of numerous golfers to pull out of competing at Rio 2016 in August, citing fears over the Zika virus.

However, in an interview with Ireland's Sunday Independent newspaper, McIlroy claimed that the tough decision on who he would represent was behind his choice not to take part.