Handsome princes and history lesson as royal visit wraps up in high science

THERE are occasions when even a monarch has to bow to the inevitable but it couldn’t have happened in a nicer way.

Queen Elizabeth II was at the Tyndall Institute, a leading technology facility at University College Cork and the last port of call in her four-day state visit.

While she enthralled the hundreds of academics, politicians and business people gathered to greet her, one member of the audience remained asleep, oblivious to the excitement generated by Cork’s first royal visit in 100 years.

The sleeping beauty was Hassan Benhaffaf, who along with his brother Hussein and his mother Angie, were presented to the Queen with Edward Kiely, the Cork-born surgeon who led the team that separated the conjoined twins at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London in April last year.

It was a great honour for her and her family, said Angie. “The meeting was lovely. The Queen was very interested in everything. I gave her an outline of what happened from the birth of the twins to the moment they were separated and she took it all in.

“It was also very fitting for them to meet royalty because the name Hassan means ‘prince’ and Hussein means ‘handsome prince’. Her coming here was very special and it was wonderful to be part of that special occasion.”

Mr Kiely described the state visit as “history in the making” and had no doubt it would help advance the normalisation of relations between Ireland and Britain. He was particularly happy at the warmth of the reception the royal couple received in his native Cork. “I wasn’t a bit surprised by the great Cork welcome they got. I hope it will be one of many,” he said.

Angie and her twins were among a group of 50 notables who were introduced to the Queen during her trip to the Rebel County.

As the royal couple moved into the courtyard of the institute, John A Murphy, emeritus professor of History at UCC, showed them the statue of a young Queen Victoria who, in August 1849, witnessed her statue being hoisted on the highest gable of what was then the Queen’s College.

He explained the statue’s chequered history, including how, after being taken down in 1934, it was buried in the college president’s garden.

“It wasn’t destroyed outright because, while the UCC authorities were nationalists, they were not vandals. It was subsequently resurrected in 1995. Thus, not only was a valuable artefact salvaged, but an important academic statement was being made — that history is a record of the past, not a chronicle of grievances.”

Fianna Fáil leader and former foreign affairs minister Micheál Martin, who was instrumental in arranging the visit, was also particularly taken by the reception the royal couple received in Cork.

As a Corkonian, he was pleased the queen did a walkabout on Grand Parade, and compared it with her time in Dublin.

“It was understandable, for security reasons, but it was strange looking at the streets of Dublin when the queen was there. It was like a ghost town. In Cork, everything was much more relaxed.”

In other words, Dublin did it bigger but Cork did it better.

Tyndall Institute: Research hub

- THE TYNDALL National Institute was established at University College Cork in 2004 as part of an initiative by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

It aimed to lead research in information and communications technology while providing talented graduates for Ireland’s growing knowledge economy.

The institute was named after John Tyndall, who is considered to be one of Ireland’s greatest physicists. Tyndall was the first to explain global warming, the greenhouse effect and why the sky is blue.

With approximately 450 staff, students, academic and industrial visiting researchers, the Tyndall Institute has become the largest research academy in Ireland.

Its facilities and expertise have provided a support to the technology industry along with highly-qualified graduate students, representing 38 different nationalities.

The current researchers include 125 PhD and 10 masters students.

The Tyndall National Institute is one of 39 research centres and institutes in UCC.

— Orla Walsh

Picture: The Queen meets Angie Benhaffaf and her boys, Hussein and a sleeping Hassan. Picture: Dan Linehan

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