Cork: Queen Elizabeth II left Ireland on a triumphant note on Friday after finally getting a chance to mingle with cheering crowds despite security concerns.
Adults and schoolchildren roared their delight as the queen walked out of the English Market and chatted with onlookers who had waited patiently for a glimpse of her during her brief trip to Cork.
"She's a very nice lady and she told me she had a very nice time in Ireland," said Adam Ryan, 12. "I never expected her to come talk to us. You can tell she's kind."
The atmosphere in Cork was much more relaxed and jubilant than it had been in Dublin, where a bomb was discovered on a suburban bus hours before her arrival, ratcheting up fears of a dissident attack on the queen, who was making the first visit of a British monarch to the Republic of Ireland.
She seems to have won rave reviews for her speech Wednesday night, when she directly addressed the tense relations that had often left these two neighbors wary, despite strong cultural, family and business ties.
The queen did not apologize for English actions, but expressed sympathy and regret for those who had suffered, striking a chord with many Irish listeners who said they were moved by her sincere and dignified approach.
"It's the best thing that's happened in Ireland in 20 years," said baker Joe Hagerty, who runs Heaven's Cakes in the English Market, the queen's first stop in Cork. "She's been very sweet and very direct and kept it very short. She said the right things. It was absolutely sincere. Everybody on our side of the world was really happy with it."
Pat O'Connell, who showed the queen and her husband, Prince Philip, his vast supply of fresh fish — including the wild salmon the queen favors — said the monarch had accomplished her goals for the ambitious trip.
"We are absolutely thrilled, it has been the most wonderful trip," he said. "The woman has just shown such dignity, such grace. You can say 99.99 percent of the people are thrilled."
His views were echoed by other shopkeepers. Some said they were nationalists who wanted a united Ireland but had still been charmed by the queen.
Radio talk shows were filled with praise for the queen, and TV commentators hailed her visit as a watershed event.
The queen arrived at the market wearing a distinctive green coat dress over a blue floral dress set off by pearls and an emerald and diamond brooch. Some 5,000 people, including a few protesters, lined the streets for her arrival from a visit to the medieval buildings at the Rock of Cashel.
A palace spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity because of palace policy, said the trip had surpassed expectations.
"It's been the most amazing four days," he said. "It's had a significance above and beyond a normal state visit. It's one of the most significant visits of her reign, without a doubt."
After her impromptu meeting with schoolchildren, the queen and Philip toured The Tyndall National Institute, a high-technology research center that is a showcase for Ireland's scientific skills, before flying home to England.
They met with local residents, including the Benhaffaf twins, who were conjoined at birth and were separated by an Irish surgeon, Dr Edward Kiely, at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Earlier, the queen and Philip were twice applauded by onlookers as they made their way across the medieval site at Cashel, which sits on a limestone outcropping in southwest Ireland.
She was driven to St. Patrick's Cathedral, an ancient, ruined church in a green Bentley, and was shown around while children from the Cashel Community School choir sang the Gaelic blessing, "May The Road Rise To Meet You."
Cashel Community school music teacher John Murray said, "Everybody in Cashel and the school are honored to have the queen here."
The queen plans to spend the weekend in England before receiving President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle at Buckingham Palace next week.
First Published: Friday, May 20, 2011, 22:17