“This is an historic day,” he said, speaking shortly before the Queen arrived in Cork. “We have got to look to the future and create the best future for Cork, and it is my belief that Terence McSweeney and Tomás McCurtain would be saying the same thing. This is a great opportunity to put Cork city on the tourist map.”
He was speaking at a press conference held at Cork School of Music during which city manager Tim Lucey, Food and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and Equality Minister Kathleen Lynch all emphasised the importance of the visit to the city.
Joined by his counterpart from Swansea in Wales, Cllr Owen Richards, the lord mayor said he had spoken to Queen Elizabeth in Dublin and believed she regarded Cork as the highlight of her state visit to Ireland. “She said to me: ‘I’ll see you in the market tomorrow’, something that any Corkonian might say.”
Ms Lynch echoed the lord mayor’s sentiments and appeared to be pushing home the point by sporting a red, white and blue outfit and teasing Cllr O’Connell that, like his forbear, DJ Hegarty, during Queen Victoria’s visit in 1849, he might be honoured with a knighthood.
The lord mayor was having none of it. “There is no truth in the rumour of my being knighted,” he said, while Ms Lynch explained away her sporting colours. “It’s just because the coat suits me,” she said.
Ms Lynch said the visit would be of immense significance to Irish people living in Britain. “I have two brothers and a sister who live in England and this will make their lives and the lives of Irish people there much easier. It is a great day.”
City manager Tim Lucey discounted estimates of the cost of the visit to Cork as being way off the mark.
“This is a big operation and we have had in the region of 250 staff involved over the past three weeks.
“Estimates of €250,000 in doing up the English Market are wrong. The real cost is in the region of €20-€30,000 and the overall cost is about €180,000, which I consider very good value for money.”