Ian Paisley has accepted an invitation to be guest speaker at the Cobh & Harbour Chamber of Commerce’s 50th anniversary dinner.
Security sources have indicated their main concern is that dissident Republicans could try and disrupt the visit. Kathleen Gearey, chief executive of Cobh and Harbour Chamber of Commerce, said it had always been hoped to get a high-profile speaker for the chamber’s 50th anniversary.
She said the links between Cobh and Belfast were important, especially when it came to the Titanic. The ill-fated liner was constructed at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, while Cobh was its last port of call before striking an iceberg with the loss of 1,595 lives.
“Mr Paisley has accepted our invitation and will speak to members of the chamber at the Commodore Hotel on Friday, April 18,” said Ms Gearey.
The chamber of commerce has 175 members drawn from Cobh, Carrigaline, Ringaskiddy, Passage West and Monkstown, many of whom are expected to attend the gathering.
“The new Northern Ireland assembly has mended bridges between north and south and, in this climate of new beginnings, the chamber is delighted to welcome Dr Paisley to Cobh and looks forward to his address,” said chamber president Joe MacCoitir.
Meanwhile, Cobh Town Council has agreed to give Mr Paisley a civic reception. Town clerk Padraig Lynch said he had written to the north Antrim MP’s constituency office asking him to confirm if he would accept a civic reception.
“We’re hoping to have it on the afternoon of April 18, but we will work around his schedule if needs be,” said Mr Lynch.
It is being speculated that Dr Paisley may spend the weekend in Cork and may take in a visit of Fota House.
Meanwhile, Cobh & Harbour Chamber of Commerce is also planning ahead for the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.
The anniversary will take place in 2012 and the chamber is hoping to make Cobh a focal point.