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Queen paid glowing tribute from Northern Ireland as she celebrates 90th birthday

String of beacons set ablaze at climax of a memorable day of parties and ceremonies

By Allan Preston

Street parties, beacons, gun salutes and cakes - people across Northern Ireland made every effort to mark the Queen's 90th birthday in style.

At Hillsborough Castle in Co Down it was a proud day for cadets from Queen's University Officer Training Corps taking part in a 21-gun salute at midday.

Under the watchful eye of soldiers from the 206 Ulster Battery, Royal Artillery, 10 student cadets helped to fire three ceremonial field guns for 21 deafening blasts.

More than 100 royal fans gathered to watch the spectacle.

Lt Colonel Brian Johnston, from the Royal Engineers, called the occasion "a great experience on a beautiful day in Hillsborough".

"It was a beautiful event with a high degree of military precision and panache," he said.

The celebration was co-ordinated with similar gun salutes in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff.

"Things like that make you recognise you are part of a bigger event celebrating Her Majesty," added Lt Col Johnston.

"I'm really very proud of the performance of my cadets while serving alongside the gunners."

At Belfast City Hall two pensioners from the city celebrating their 90th birthday were the guests of honour for a beacon-lighting ceremony.

A message from the Queen was read by Lord Lieutenant Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle, with music from the Belfast Temple Salvation Army band.

Looking forward to the ceremony was the DUP's Deputy Lord Mayor Guy Spence.

"Belfast is certainly leading the Northern Ireland celebrations," he said.

"The Queen has brought so many nations and cultures together, especially here in Northern Ireland with her visit just a few years ago to the Irish Republic."

In Derry, Ebrington Square made a spectacular evening setting for the beacon-lighting, with music from the Hamilton Flute Band.

Church leaders from across the city joined in with crowds to sing hymns, and a message from Prince Charles was read by the Lord Lieutenant for Co Londonderry Dr Angela Garvey.

Lloyd Magee, chair of the Bond Street Community Forum, helped to organise the ceremony.

"It's fantastic we're allowed on Ebrington Square to do this - we're really chuffed to bits," Mr Magee said. "Everybody's welcome and we're all very delighted we have a chance to do this for Queen Elizabeth's 90th birthday."

In Enniskillen Hazel Johnston, owner of the Jolly Sandwich Bar, was setting the mood for a night of festivities.

"We're having a street party with elderflower champagne and cupcakes with the Queen's face on them," she said. "There's just a real buzz about the town and a terrific atmosphere.

"We're absolutely delighted to be joining in. We don't know how many people are going to come, but we will do our best.

"We've also made two large cakes with a photo of the Queen walking between the two churches when she was last here in Enniskillen. That was really a terrific bonding moment between everyone when she came here - it was absolutely fantastic."

Last night a cross-community service was held at St Macartin's Cathedral in the town followed by a beacon-lighting ceremony. Two high-powered beams were also shot into the sky, crossing over to symbolise the two communities coming together.

And the Enniskillen Castle Museum was lit up with regal purple lights.

"It's all happening in Enniskillen, everyone has worked so hard," Hazel said.

"We're just going about like lamplighters today."

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