Guns sound across village as Northern Ireland pays tribute to the Queen

·3-min read
Lady Mary Elizabeth Peters lays flowers at the gates of Hillsborough Castle in Co Down, as she pays her respects (Mark Marlow/PA) (PA Wire)
Lady Mary Elizabeth Peters lays flowers at the gates of Hillsborough Castle in Co Down, as she pays her respects (Mark Marlow/PA) (PA Wire)

A 96-round royal gun salute has taken place at Hillsborough Castle as people from across Northern Ireland continue to mark the death of the Queen.

The sound of the guns boomed across the small Co Down village as Reservists from the 206 Battery 105 Regiment Royal Artillery fired the salute – each round marking a year of the Queen’s life.

In attendance was Lord Caine, the Permanent Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and Steve Baker, Minister of State for Northern Ireland.

As the gun salute finished after 12 minutes, there was a moment of silence before applause broke out from the large crowd gathered outside the castle.

With the UK entering a period of official mourning, much of the focus in Northern Ireland will be on the small Co Down village. It hosts Northern Ireland’s royal residence which will be the centre of ceremonial activities.

A major security operation is under way in the village, with traffic restricted ahead of what is expected to be a large number of visitors paying tribute over the coming days.

Royal Hillsborough last year became the first place in Northern Ireland to be granted royal status.

Floral tributes are laid at the gates of Hillsborough Castle in County Down (Jonathan McCambridge/PA) (PA Wire)
Floral tributes are laid at the gates of Hillsborough Castle in County Down (Jonathan McCambridge/PA) (PA Wire)

Hundreds of floral tributes have been left at the gates of the castle, with people travelling from across Northern Ireland to pay their respects.

Among those who paid tributes at the castle was Olympic gold medallist Dame Mary Peters.

Karen Irwin travelled to Hillsborough with her family from Fivemiletown.

She said: “The Queen means an awful lot to us, she really was the epitome of service to her country.

“We feel very sad, it really is the end of an era, it is difficult to put into words.”

Council workers and local community representatives hang a mural on a wall on Crimea Street off the Shankill road in Belfast (Mark Marlow/PA) (PA Wire)
Council workers and local community representatives hang a mural on a wall on Crimea Street off the Shankill road in Belfast (Mark Marlow/PA) (PA Wire)

Away from the Co Down village, people were gathering at a mural of the Queen on the Shankill Road in Belfast on Friday morning to leave floral tributes.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Christina Black and the Lord Lieutenant Dame Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle opened books of condolence at Belfast City Hall.

Members of the public will be able to sign the books until the day of the state funeral.

The Garden of Remembrance is also open at the City Hall for for anyone wishing to lay floral tributes.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Christina Black said: “Queen Elizabeth made a valuable contribution to building peace and strengthening reconciliation between people on these islands.

“As a mark of respect, I will open books of condolence at City Hall for the people of the city to sign and extend sympathies to her family at this sad time.”

People gather at Hillsborough Castle, Northern Ireland to pay their respects (Peter Morrison/PA) (PA Wire)
People gather at Hillsborough Castle, Northern Ireland to pay their respects (Peter Morrison/PA) (PA Wire)

Books of condolence are being opened across Northern Ireland including Londonderry’s Guildhall, Antrim Castle Gardens, Ballyclare War Memorial Park, Mossley Mill Civic Square, Bangor Town Hall, the Arts Centre, Newtownards, Ballymoney Town Hall, Coleraine Town Hall and the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre in Limavady.

Events are being cancelled across Northern Ireland in tribute to the Queen. A tweet from the Northern Ireland Assembly also said there would be no access to Parliament Buildings at Stormont until further notice.

The NI International Air Show, which was due to take place in Portrush this weekend, has been cancelled as a mark of respect.

Stormont speaker Alex Maskey has already stated that he is liaising with officials to ensure that the Stormont Assembly is able to pay tribute.