Queen's historic visit hailed as a massive success
QUEEN Elizabeth last night vowed to return to Ireland as she completed a historic state visit, hailed a huge success on both sides of the Irish Sea.
Her four-day tour culminated in a sunny send-off at Cork Airport, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny confident that she would accept an invite to come back to Ireland again in the future.
After accompanying her to the airplane steps before departure, Mr Kenny said: "Your Majesty, would you like to come back again sometime?"
Her reply was: "Yes, I would very much like to do that."
Earlier in the day, the queen had made another piece of history by meeting a Sinn Fein mayor, before strolling around Cork city centre and shaking hands with locals.
Thousands lined the streets in the rebel county, as Cork welcomed the first monarch to visit in 100 years.
The queen's carefully orchestrated itinerary since she arrived on Tuesday was packed with symbolic events, including visits to Croke Park and the Garden of Remembrance.
Officials believe the trip was vindicated and will offer the country's image a huge global boost, despite reservations about a threat to the queen.
But the massive security operation which has been in place all week will not be stood down this weekend. Instead gardai have already switched their security focus to combating any potential threats against US President Barack Obama.
Special Branch detectives from the unit's Middle Eastern desk are combining with military intelligence to combat the dangers posed by international terror groups.
And three busloads of gardai arrived in the Co Offaly village of Moneygall last night ahead of Mr Obama's visit on Monday.
A team of more than 200 US Secret Service agents will also be ready to help gardai.
Last night, gardai hailed the security operation for the queen's visit as a success. The efforts of 2,000 officers in Cork yesterday were key in allowing the queen to mingle with the crowd.
She may have been in Cork for less than three hours but the British monarch made history when she broke from protocol, and her waiting car, to mingle at the barriers outside the city's English Market.
However, it was the smile on the queen's face as she boarded the royal flight at Cork Airport for her return to the UK that spoke volumes.
Mr Kenny described the visit as "a new beginning for Anglo-Irish relations".
He added: "Ireland this week measured up to the highest global standards and for that we can be very proud."
Also, in attendance at Cork Airport were British Foreign Secretary William Hague and the British Ambassador to Ireland, Julian King.
"It has gone really, really well. We hoped it would go well but I think it has gone better than we had hoped," Mr King said.
"We have been touched by the warmth of the welcome everywhere.
"But we had a set of events, a set of images that have gone all around the world and indeed Her Majesty's own words that are going to make a major contribution to the relations between Britain and Ireland."