William and Kate visit Belfast
Published 08/03/2011 | 10:48
Armed police kept watch from the rooftops as Prince William and his bride-to-be Kate Middleton brought the centre of Belfast to a standstill today.
A small crowd gathered in the bright sunshine inside the grounds of City Hall in the hope of a walkabout after police sealed off streets and diverted traffic as part of a huge security operation for the couple's first visit to the North.
They arrived at the George Best City Airport at Sydenham, east Belfast.
The couple were met by Lord Mayor Pat Convery and Dame Mary Peters, a former Olympic pentathlon athletics champion who is now the Lord Lieutenant of Belfast.
It was the first in a series of engagements planned for the couple, who are to marry at Westminster Abbey on April 29.
Heavily-armed police patrolled adjoining and nearby streets, and at one stage used steel rods to check litter bins close to the City Hall gates and grounds.
One officer using binoculars kept watch from the rooftop of the Robinson & Cleaver building directly opposite, and at least two others, also using binoculars, positioned themselves on the top of City Hall, just few away from the Union Flag which fluttered in a gentle breeze.
Senior officials at the Northern Ireland Office who were heavily involved with Buckingham Palace in organising the trip did not confirm William and Kate even planned to make the visit until their aircraft landed in east Belfast.
But by the time the entourage pulled up in front of City Hall, word had already leaked out because of the heavy security presence.
The couple accepted a framed photograph of City Hall and a book on the building's architectural history.
They arrived in an eight-car cavalcade, with William and Miss Middleton in the second.
She wore a double-breasted mink-coloured belted coat with a frill at the base, black opaque tights and black high-heeled shoes. William wore a navy suit.
They paused for a time on the steps of the front door, acknowledging the cheering crowd, some of whom waved miniature Union Flags.