Belfast plans diamond jubilee bash for 10,000

Belfast will put on a party for 10,000 members of the public to mark Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee when she visits Northern Ireland next month, officials announced on Friday.

The event celebrating the queen's 60th year on the throne will be held in the grounds of Belfast's Parliament Buildings, known as Stormont, on July 27, the Northern Ireland Office said.

The party comes after last weekend's spectacular jubilee festivities, which included a 1,000-boat pageant on London's River Thames and a pop concert at Buckingham Palace featuring Paul McCartney, Elton John and Stevie Wonder.

The queen is due to arrive in Northern Ireland with her husband Prince Philip on June 26.

But 90-year-old Philip was hospitalised on Monday with a bladder infection, forcing him to miss the end of the main jubilee celebrations.

Buckingham Palace said Friday that the queen was still set to go ahead with the Northern Ireland visit, but could not say whether Philip would be well enough to accompany her as planned.

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," a palace spokesman told AFP.

The palace said two days ago that Philip's condition had "improved considerably" but that he was still likely to spend several days in London's King Edward VII hospital.

His grandsons Princes William and Harry visited him at the hospital on Friday, two days before his 91st birthday.

Details of how the 10,000 free tickets for the Belfast party will be distributed will be released next week.

Peter Robinson, First Minister of Northern Ireland's devolved government, said the Belfast bash would be an opportunity "for the people to express their devotion and appreciation to Her Majesty for six decades of service."

"In the last number of days, we have seen a clear demonstration of the level of support which exists right across the community for Her Majesty," he said.

The queen and Prince Philip have been touring Britain this year to mark the diamond jubilee, while other British royals are travelling the globe, from Canada to Tuvalu.

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