It is a week for Northern Ireland to send powerful messages around the world — both of historic political progress and sporting success.
Final preparations are underway for two of the most exciting and popular events in the province’s busy 2012 calendar — the Queen’s two-day Diamond Jubilee visit and the sell-out Irish Open at Royal Portrush.
Security cordons were being erected at Stormont Estate yesterday ahead of the massive Diamond Jubilee party on Wednesday where 22,000 people will join in the royal celebrations.
Stormont’s groundsmen and firefighters were also hard at work pumping gallons of floodwater out of its low-lying grass areas after last week’s deluge.
An extra 2,000 tickets had to be issued after 10,000 free tickets to the Jubilee event were snapped up within six minutes.
A further 10,000 ‘VIPs’ are expected to attend as a result of passes being given out to invited guests. Demand for tickets is so high that they have been placed for sale on online auction sites, with one site selling four tickets for £2,500. The Queen and Prince Philip arrive in Northern Ireland tomorrow for a two-day visit which will involve a series of engagements in Belfast and Enniskillen.
Although the Queen has been to Northern Ireland 19 times during her 60-year reign, this week’s visit is likely to be the most significant after confirmation that the monarch will meet and shake hands with Deputy First Minister and former IRA commander Martin McGuinness.
The historic meeting is set to take place at a charity reception organised by Co Operation Ireland in Belfast on Wednesday.
While royal excitement escalates, McIlroy mania reaches fever pitch with over 100,000 fans expected to descend on the north coast for the Irish Open in Portrush.
It is the first time the tournament has been held in Northern Ireland since 1953 and is set to be the first sell-out the European Tour has had for a regular event.
Northern Ireland stars Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell are all taking part in the event, which will run from Thursday to Sunday, along with USPGA champion Keegan Bradley and three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington.
Northern Ireland Tourist Board chief executive Alan Clarke said: “This year’s Irish Open is sure to be one of the biggest in the competition’s history.”
A number of famous faces will be seen along the north coast, with many stars set to play in the Irish Open Pro-Am at Royal Portrush on Wednesday.
Lost in Translation star Bill Murray and his brother Joel, who plays Freddy Rumsen in hit television show Mad Men, Legends of the Fall actor Aidan Quinn, singer Ronan Keating, football figures Martin O'Neill and Pat Jennings, and rugby stars David Humphreys and Andrew Trimble will all take part in the event.
Hotels, guest houses and B&B’s right across the north coast have been booked out for weeks. Extra trains have been scheduled to run from Belfast and Derry to Portrush to help deal with the huge crowds expected.
For park and ride facilities for the Stormont Diamond Jubilee party, log on to www.nio.gov.uk/stormont-estate-information