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Belfast shipyard siren sounds tribute as UK claps for NHS, perhaps for final time

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A nurse takes part in the salute to carers outside the Mater Hospital last night

A nurse takes part in the salute to carers outside the Mater Hospital last night

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A nurse takes advantage of free ice cream for nurses at the Mater Hospital

A nurse takes advantage of free ice cream for nurses at the Mater Hospital

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Downing Street

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Downing Street

Getty Images

Founder of Clap for Carers, Annemarie Plas, takes part

Founder of Clap for Carers, Annemarie Plas, takes part

AFP via Getty Images

Elmer Kennedy beats out a tribute with his Lambeg drum to an appreciative audience of neighbours in Templepatrick

Elmer Kennedy beats out a tribute with his Lambeg drum to an appreciative audience of neighbours in Templepatrick

A nurse takes part in the salute to carers outside the Mater Hospital last night

The Harland & Wolff shipyard siren sounded yesterday evening in tribute to the bravery and dedication of all key workers and NHS staff across the country.

The horn, which was heard across Belfast for the first time in more than 20 years last month, rang out from the iconic shipyard at 8pm. The weekly Clap for Carers event has seen millions of people across the country pause every Thursday evening to applaud frontline key workers, NHS staff and carers who have continued to work throughout the lockdown.

The H&W siren was accompanied by a local bagpiper, Grahame Harris, playing in solidarity with the Queen's Island workers.

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson, said: "The NHS staff and key workers, both in Northern Ireland and across the UK, have given up so much to make sure that our people remain healthy, and that our country continues to operate.

"It is fitting that Belfast, and the whole country, show our gratitude for their hard work."

Over the past two months, millions of people across the UK have gathered on their doorsteps - while socially distancing - on pavements and in their gardens each week to make a joyful noise and demonstrate their support for care staff and frontline workers.

But the weekly ritual has been criticised by some for becoming "politicised", while others - including NHS staff - have said some people who take part in the clap then ignore the plea to stay at home and avoid gatherings in an effort to ease the strain on the healthcare system.

This evening's celebration may be the last show of support from the nation after the organiser behind the ritual suggested it should come to an end.

Dutchwoman Annemarie Plas, who first came up with the Clap for Carers idea, said: "Without getting too political, I share some of the opinions that some people have about it becoming politicised.

"I think the narrative is starting to change and I don't want the clap to be negative."

Belfast Telegraph