Beacons have lit up the skies across Northern Ireland to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
They marked the close of the first day of festivities to celebrate 70 years since the Queen’s reign began.
Beacons were lit at towns and cities across Northern Ireland including at Titanic Belfast and St Columb’s Cathedral in Londonderry.
Great to be present in Royal Hillsborough this morning for a 42 Gun salute to Her Majesty the Queen. Terrific crowd present to honour 70 years of her reign. Off to London for the national service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/Xzpx5km5LU
— Jeffrey Donaldson MP (@J_Donaldson_MP) June 2, 2022
Sinn Fein’s Stormont Finance Minister Conor Murphy took part in a service to mark the date at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh.
The most westerly town, Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh, also hosted a service of thanksgiving at St Macartin’s Cathedral.
The Queen visited the cathedral in 2012 as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and crossed the road to the nearby Catholic St Michael’s Church.
Fab exhibition of all things royal at Enniskillen Castle “Our Coronation Story” gives a local touch to the Coronation and also hosts the outfit worn by HM the Queen when she last visited Enniskillen. Well worth a visit #Platinumjubilee pic.twitter.com/iFNEEBBd4x
— Arlene Foster #ProudofNI. (@ArleneFosterUK) June 2, 2022
Former Stormont first minister Dame Arlene Foster was among the guests at the service.
Following the service, a beacon was lit in the grounds of the cathedral, while 12 beacons were also lit on the walls of Enniskillen Castle which was illuminated purple by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council to mark the occasion.
More than 100 pipers and musicians from the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association played Diu Regnare, which was specially composed to mark the Platinum Jubilee
Two beams of light were projected into the night sky to symbolise the Queen’s historic visit in 2012.
Further beacons were lit nearby at Castle Island, Topped Mountain and the Enniskillen Royal Grammar School.
Earlier a 42-gun salute was fired at Hillsborough Castle.
Members of the 206 Ulster Battery of the Royal Artillery fired from three guns outside the castle as hundreds of people gathered in the grounds of the royal palace to watch the commemorative event.
Among guests were Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis and former first minister Paul Givan.
The official four-day celebration of the Queen’s 70 years on the throne includes street parties, exhibitions, church services and lunch events.
Speaking at Hillsborough Castle, Mr Lewis said the Jubilee provided a chance for all communities across the UK to come together.
“This is the start of four days of celebration of one of the most amazing women that we have seen in public service around the world,” he said.
“A Platinum Jubilee is not something that happens very often and the service that Her Majesty the Queen has given to both the UK and the Commonwealth more widely is being recognised, and I think it is also a great opportunity for people across all communities across the UK to come together, to spend time together and to celebrate an amazing lady.”
He praised the Queen for always taking a “proactive” interest in Northern Ireland.
“I think it is really good that a wide range of people, all of us, can recognise and celebrate that service,” he said.
“When I talk about that service Her Majesty has given to the country, it is not just the stability of being in place and serving the Commonwealth and the UK, but actually taking a proactive interest in and role in some of the most important things in the history of our country.
“The peace process in Northern Ireland is a very good example of that and I think it is something we can all be very proud of, having somebody as our Queen who has been through that process with us and been steadfast in doing so as well.”
Mr Givan said the 42-gun salute at Royal Hillsborough was “very special”.
“Never again in my lifetime are we going to get a Platinum Jubilee, maybe never again in history will we get one, so this is a hugely important event,” he said.
“The public are really embracing this occasion to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations and it’s fantastic to be part of it.”
Thursday marked the start of a long bank holiday weekend in Northern Ireland which will also include a visit from the Earl and Countess of Wessex.
The royal couple are expected to carry out two engagements in the region on Saturday.
As well as the gun salute at Royal Hillsborough, which is the Queen’s official residence in Northern Ireland, in Belfast the HMS Pembroke is docked for the weekend and open to visitors with pre-booked tickets.
At the weekend, big lunch events will be taking place across the region, including on the Shankill Road and in Bangor, Co Down, which was made a city as part of the Jubilee celebrations.