Northern Ireland

Diamond Jubilee: 21-gun salute at Hillsborough

The royal family's official residence in County Down has been the venue for one of the main Diamond Jubilee events in Northern Ireland this weekend.

As preparations to mark 60 years of Queen Elizabeth's reign get under way in London, Hillsborough Castle was the focal point in Northern Ireland on Saturday.

Secretary of State Owen Paterson greeted hundreds of guests, including First Minister Peter Robinson. A 21-gun Royal Salute marked the anniversary of the coronation in 1953.

A fly-past took place at Hillsborough fort and Diamond Jubilee medals were handed out to serving members of the armed forces and the emergency services.

There was a parachute display as well as a celebratory lunch at the castle.

The Mayor and the Lord Lieutenant of County Down then inspected the troops on parade, and there was a performance by the band of The royal Irish Regiment.

Mr Paterson said the venue was "absolutely appropriate".

"I think it's really tremendous that we have this huge celebration with so many people from right across the community coming to Hillsborough," he said.

Mr Robinson said the excitement was building about the Jubilee celebrations.

"I've already been around a number of events, particularly in primary schools, where children are throwing themselves into the celebrations."

The event was organised by Lisburn City Council.

Writing on the council's website, the mayor of Lisburn, William Leathem, said: "For those of us who have worked or served in our own professions for many years, we understand the enormity of time that 60 year's service brings and we wish to express our thanks and pay our respects to Her Majesty.

"It is particularly fitting to be at Hillsborough today, where The Queen has visited on many occasions.

"I would like to thank all who have facilitated today's celebrations and who have put much time, planning and effort into making today a day to remember."

Meanwhile, millions of Britons are expected to take part in Jubilee parties, outdoor concerts and fairs being staged across the country over the weekend.

On Sunday, in what is being called the Big Jubilee Lunch, people all over the UK are being encouraged to share lunch with neighbours and friends in street parties or picnics to bring communities together.

On Monday, a concert will be held in front of Buckingham Palace in the area surrounding the Queen Victoria Memorial, with performances from artists including Dame Shirley Bassey, Sir Elton John, Jessie J, JLS and Ed Sheeran.

When it ends at 22:00 BST, more than 4,000 beacons are due to be lit in the UK and around the world.

The Queen will light the UK's last beacon - the National Beacon - at about 22:30 BST, to be followed by a firework display at Buckingham Palace.

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