Warm 'welkom' for Dutch royals as they visit Cork

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima with members of the Sarsfields camogie team during their visit to Fort Camden, Crosshaven, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

The King of the Netherlands left Cork with an open invitation to return to the Carrigaline Men's Shed to join the group's choir.

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima told the enthusiastic volunteers that they will explore the option of setting up similar initiatives in the Netherlands in an effort to tackle loneliness and social isolation.

They described the locals' volunteer work as "wonderful".

The Royal couple travelled to Cork on the third day of their visit to Ireland.

It was their first visit here during their six-year reign and came against the backdrop of efforts to forge closer relations in a Brexit context.

The whistlestop tour included stops in Cork city, Cobh and Crosshaven where they were met by small but passionate crowds of Dutch tourists and Cork residents alike.

Many donned orange clothes to show their support and others carried flowers amid their efforts to catch a glimpse of the Royal couple.

Their day started with a stop at Cork City Hall to meet the Lord Mayor, Cllr John Sheehan, and city management.

It was a warm "welkom" for the couple, with a handful of Dutch tourists and a few others who call Cork their home turning out to greet the couple.

Manon O'Connor, originally from Eindhoven, has lived here for 20 years - she brought her daughter, Robin, 8, to City Hall to see the Royal family.

Another family, Maria and Hubert Groeskramp, are here on holiday to honour Hubert's father who lived here many years ago.

They rearranged their holiday to include a stop at City Hall to catch a glimpse of the Royal couple.

At City Hall, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima were presented with a poem titled 'In Cork, Waiting for the Dutch', written by Cork poet, Thomas McCarthy.

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima then travelled by boat to Cobh where they were greeted by another excited crowd, many of whom donned Dutch colours.

The 800-passenger Dutch liner Prinsendam docked in the town, sounding its horn in celebration as the Royal couple disembarked their boat ahead of a trade delegation meeting in the Sirius Arts Centre.

From there, it was on to Crosshaven, where the couple were met by Tánaiste Simon Coveney, a large number of local schoolchildren and some local volunteer groups.

They made their way to Camden Fort Meagher where they met with local sports clubs and volunteers, including the Rescue Camden Volunteers and Ballynamona Beach Clean.

They were treated to a demonstration game by the under 14s Sarsfield camogie team which has won the County under-14 championship and played in Croke Park in the last year.

This was their latest honour, with club members delighted to have the chance to show off the game to an international audience.

The girls also presented three Dutch ash hurleys to the Royal couple, as well as jerseys and sliotars for the princesses Catharina-Amalia, 15, Alexia, 13, and Ariane, 12.

Queen Máxima pictured at Cobh pier. Picture: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Queen Máxima pictured at Cobh pier. Picture: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Ciara Rice, 13, said the couple are very nice and were interested in camogie.

Teammate, Leidan Shepherd, said they were impressed by the volunteerism of the club.

Barry Cogan of the Carrigaline Men's Shed was on hand to chat to the royal couple, informing them of all the work done by the 50-strong group, which started in 2011.

Mr Cogan left the couple with an open invitation to return to the Men's Shed new premises in Carrigaline, reserving a spot in the shed's choir for King Willem-Alexander.

The King described the work in tackling social isolation as "wonderful", while Queen Máxima described it as "a beautiful initiative", laughing when the men told her that many of their members are made to join by wives who want them out of the house in retirement.

The couple said their Orange Foundation charity is keen to support similar initiatives.

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