Belfast Telegraph

Royal visit to Northern Ireland: The Queen's up close and personal touch thrills the crowds

By Claire Williamson

The Queen has ended the second day of her relaxed trip to Northern Ireland with a glittering garden party at Hillsbrough Castle.

It was a busy day for Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh as they continued their three-day visit amid visible but low-key security, with plenty of chances for the public to catch sight of the royal couple.

The Queen started off the day with a visit to the historic Crumlin Road Gaol – along with two of its former inmates.

The First and Deputy First Ministers returned to the prison where they were both detained during the Troubles as they accompanied the Queen on a tour of what is now a museum and visitor attraction.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander, was held in the prison for more than a month in 1976 on a charge of IRA membership – a count that was later dropped in court.

DUP leader Mr Robinson was detained on a number of occasions during the 1980s for his involvement in protests against the controversial Anglo Irish Agreement.

Mr McGuinness called the Queen's visit to the Crumlin Road prison another "bold step" by the monarch.

"The vast bulk of our people appreciate the effort Queen Elizabeth is making to peace and the reconciliation process and I think many people will look at the visit to the Crumlin Road prison, for example, with a degree of astonishment," he said.

The Queen then entered the world of fantasy and fiction as she enjoyed a tour of the new Titanic studios where Game of Thrones is filmed.

As she met cast members beside the Iron Throne of Westeros, they held their breath as Her Majesty edged closer to the famous chair.

Instead of taking a seat, she instead joked about how uncomfortable it looked and was presented with a miniature replica.

Before their next engagement at City Hall, the royal couple stopped off at St George's Market where thousands of spectators were stunned at how close they could get to them – with 14-year-old Jack Surgenor even managing to sneak a selfie with the Queen.

Continuing her landmark visit at City Hall, Her Majesty gave an optimistic speech and praised the work of those involved in the peace process.

She said: "Belfast should be an example to the world of people overcoming differences.

"I know there are many challenges ahead and peacemaking is not always an easy task."

The Queen added: "The world yearns for examples of positive transformation and of people overcoming differences."

To end a very eventful and busy day the Queen attended a garden party at Hillsborough Castle hosted by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.

She met a number of police officers and military personnel including outgoing PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott and Brigadier Ralph Wooddisse, Commander 38 (Irish) Brigade.

Former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass, who chaired talks on flags, parades and the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland last year, also attended.

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