N. Ireland loyalists anxious after queen's death

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STORY: Northern Irish loyalists laid flowers by a huge mural of a young Queen Elizabeth in a fiercely British corner of west Belfast, looking back at what they saw as a glorious past.

"It's really really sad, it's like you lost your granny or somebody who belonged to you."

A few hundred meters away, across steel and concrete "peace walls," many Irish nationalists reacted to her death with indifference or polite sympathy.

Elizabeth was queen for 70 of Northern Ireland's 100 years of history, and for all of three decades of the "Troubles" in which more than 3,000 died in sectarian fighting.

Loyalists, who want to keep the region under British rule, remain among the royal family's most devoted subjects.

Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army, horrified many loyalists in May by securing the largest number of seats in the regional parliament for the first time.

The party's said a referendum on letting Northern Ireland join a united Irish state should be held within a decade.

Doug Beattie is leader of the second largest unionist party, the Ulster Unionists.

"She understood what was happening, contemporary changes to the world, and she moved with them, and I think Charles has the ability to do that as well - so in every corner of the kingdom he's going to have a very particular issue that he's going to have to deal with, of course here in Northern Ireland it's very acute because we come from a very divided society."

A potent symbol of the union, the queen in her later years became a major force for reconciliation with its Irish nationalist foes.

Her state visit to Ireland in 2011 was the first by a monarch in almost a century of independence.

Irish nationalist columnist Brian Feeney.

"Her visit there was a major watershed, particularly when she went to the Garden of Remembrance and laid a wreath to the men who actually rebelled against her grandfather in 1916, so there was a lot of stuff washed away by the queen's visit in 2011."

While some Irish nationalists in bars reportedly cheered the news of the queen's death and some fireworks were heard in Belfast, the reaction across nationalist areas was largely muted.

Sinn Fein called on supporters to be respectful and said they were looking forward to working with Charles.