'Special moment' for special twins

One of Ireland’s second most famous set of twin brothers after pint-sized pop duo Jedward missed his chance to mingle with royalty on the final day of the Queen’s visit to Ireland.

One of Ireland’s second most famous set of twin brothers after pint-sized pop duo Jedward missed his chance to mingle with royalty on the final day of the Queen’s visit to Ireland.

Little Hassan Benhaffaf dozed during his encounter with the monarch while his brother Hussein simply gazed ahead and seemed equally unimpressed.

Luckily the mother of formerly conjoined twins, Angie Benhaffaf, made up for their lack of enthusiasm and chatted at ease with the Queen about her son’s condition.

“They’ve met David Cameron at Downing Street and the Queen, so I don’t know who will be next. It was very exciting,” said Mrs Benhaffaf, whose husband Azzedine stayed at home to mind the boy’s sisters.

“She was familiar with their story and asked a lot of questions about the boys. It was an honour.

“It’s a very special moment, one for their photograph album.”

The 17-month-old brothers – the country’s most recognised twins after Jedward - were separated in Great Ormond Street Hospital in London in April 2010.

Dubbed the little fighters, they flew back to their home in Cork one year ago tomorrow.

Edward Kiely, the Cork-born surgeon who carried out the successful operation, described the Queen’s visit and crowds cheering her on the city’s streets as history in the making.

“Union flags flapping doesn’t mean we are west Britain and doesn’t mean we are going backwards. It’s a recognition of who she is,” he said.

“Cork is the Rebel County and one of the places a lot of fighting went on just under 100 years ago, so if Cork can get on with it then that’s fantastic.

The monarch’s final engagement at the Tyndall Research Institute, University College Cork, could not have been more different to the historical sites she visited over the last four days.

In stark contrast to the secluded but majestic Rock of Cashel, crowds cheered outside as she toured the spacious state-of-the-art glass building and was given a glimpse of the future.

The Queen listened intently as chief executive Professor Roger Whatmore filled the room with science jargon and dazzled her with talk of phonetics, microelectronics, painless needles and silicone chips that reduce energy bills by knowing calculating how an people are in the house.

A touch of nostalgia was added to the tour as the royal couple viewed a statue of Queen Victoria, which the former monarch witnessed being hoisted in Queen’s College, now UCC, in August 1849.

There it remained until 1934 when it was taken down and buried in the university’s President’s Garden. The statue was resurrected in 1995, to mark the 150th anniversary of the Queen’s College foundation.

Meanwhile politicians, community and business leaders waited eagerly to shake hands with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at the Tyndall, named after 19th century Irish scientist John Tyndall.

Several young people, including Special Olympian Rowan Gill, under-19 footballer Lauren Murphy and Young Scientist of the Year Richard O’Shea, also managed to greet the couple before they were whisked away to Cork Airport and left Ireland’s shores.

As royal fans waved them off Prof Whatmore believed the public changed their view of the British monarch during the week.

“The Queen bowing in the Garden of Remembrance... they were deeply moved by that,” said the proud Englishman.

“That changed their view on the whole British Irish relationship and that’s just coming from the man in the street. I thought that was wonderful.”

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