Queen leaves Ireland after historic four-day State visit


Queen Elizabeth has left Cork after a historic four-day State visit which is being heralded as a “resounding success” by officials from both governments.

The Queen and Prince Philip were escorted to their plane at Cork airport this afternoon by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in front of a military guard of honour.

Their flight left the airport shortly after 4pm, wrapping up a busy agenda that included official engagements in Dublin, Kildare, Tipperary and Cork.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Kenny said he invited the Queen to return to Ireland some day and she replied that she would like to do so.

Earlier, the Queen surprised onlookers in Cork by undertaking a spontaneous walkabout to greet members of the public outside the city’s English Market.

The unprecedented security surrounding her State visit has so far precluded 85-year-old monarch from meeting the public. However, the success of the visit and the warm welcome she has received appears to have prompted an easing of the security arrangements.

Emerging from a tour of Cork’s famous fresh-food market on the final day of their State visit today, the Queen crossed the road to greet onlookers.

She walked part of the mall, clutching a bouquet of flowers, acknowledging members of the public who had turned out to see her before returning to the royal motorcade.

Earlier, hundreds of people had lined the South Mall to catch a glimpse of the royal motorcade as it arrived at the market.

The Queen and Prince Philip were escorted on a tour of the market, one of the oldest covered markets of its kind in Europe, by the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Michael O’Connell, in the company of Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

The Queen met some of the many stallholders who trade there before unveiling a plaque to mark her visit to the market.

After leaving the market, the Queen and Prince Philip visited the world-renowned Tyndall Institute at University College Cork.

As well as meeting staff from the institute, they were given demonstrations of the current research projects, including a painless needle and revolutionary semi-conductor.

The royal couple also met the Benhaffaf brothers, the formerly conjoined twins who were successfully separated in London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital last year, and their mother Angie.

Despite the convivial atmosphere, the Queen’s visit to Cork was heavily policed with several parts of the city centre effectively locked down.

The royal couple began the final day of their State visit this morning with a trip to the Rock of Cashel in Co Tipperary. They arrived by helicopter from Farmleigh for a brief tour of the famous medieval site shortly before 11am.

They were given a tour of the various buildings and structures, which date from the 12th century onwards, in the company of ministers Brendan Howlin and Brian Hayes.

The Rock of Cashel boasts its own royal pedigree, having served as the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several centuries prior to the Norman invasion.

The local Cashel Community School Choir performed for the Queen at the north transept of St Patrick’s cathedral.

 The Sinn Féin mayor of Cashel Michael Browne made history today by becoming the first member of his party to shake the hand of the Queen. Mr Browne he claimed it was his civic duty as the town’s first citizen to make the
gesture. “I just shook hands with her,” he said. “I just said to her ‘welcome to Cashel Your Majesty and I hope you enjoy your stay’. No more, no less.”

Sinn Féin later moved to distance itself from Mr Browne’s gesture, with the party’s South Tipperary spokesman Muiris Ó Súilleabháin insisting its position remained that the Queen’s visit was premature.

“Party members in Tipperary were surprised by Michael Browne’s action, especially as he recently signed a statement against the English queen’s visit to the Rock of Cashel,” Mr Ó Súilleabháin said. “Sinn Féin’s position on the visit of the English queen to Ireland is that it is premature and we are opposed to it and that its elected members should not attend any of the events related to it.”

After the Cashel tour, the royal pair left for a private visit to the famous Coolmore Stud, owned by the Magnier family and home to several champion horses and leading sires including Galileo, Montjeu and Rock of Gibraltar.

Despite the massive security operation surrounding the royal visit, which is to cost in the region of €30 million, officials are already labelling it a “resounding success”.

Up to 10,000 Garda and Defence Forces personnel have been involved in the largest security operation ever mounted by the State.

Political leaders in Ireland and Britain yesterday claimed the visit and the 85-year-old monarch’s speech on Anglo-Irish relations at the State dinner on Wednesday had elevated relations between the two countries.

Last night, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip attended an indoor garden party and concert at the Convention Centre in Dublin.

The royal pair’s final public engagement in the capital was hosted by the British embassy as a "return event" which the visiting country hosts during state visits.

Organised by Docklands entrepreneur Harry Crosbie with Riverdance founder John McColgan acting as artistic director, the event was designed to showcase the best in Irish music and culture.

It was attended by President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin McAleese together with some 2,000 guests drawn from the worlds of fashion, sport, business politics and entertainment.

In contrast to the formal ceremonies of the previous two days, the royals were treated to a festive occasion with music from the Chieftains, Westlife and X-Factor contestant Mary Byrne, as well as fashion show.