Carrick-on-Suir’s ‘own goal’ by refusing to invite Queen to the town

Aileen Hahesy

Aileen Hahesy

A Carrick-on-Suir business community leader says the local Town Council “scored a real own goal” and sent out the wrong message by voting against a motion to invite Queen Elizabeth 11 to the town during her historic visit to Ireland next month.

The defeat of Independent Cllr Pierce O’Loughlin’s motion requesting the Council to invite Queen Elizabeth and President Mary McAleese to visit Carrick-on-Suir’s Tudor Manor by six votes to two has sparked much comment and debate in Carrick-on-Suir over the past few weeks, particularly as the British monarch has included the Rock of Cashel in her itinerary.

Seamus Campbell, Chairman of Carrick-on-Suir Business Association, said the decision by an overwhelming majority of the Council not to support Cllr O’Loughlin’s motion at last month’s Town Council meeting was a “real own goal” and most people in the town thought the decision was “very silly”.

“I think even the people who voted against it at the time realise that they shot themselves in the foot. The Queen wasn’t going to come to Carrick-on-Suir but it just looked bad. It’s too late to reverse the decision now and there is no point in harping on about it and raking up old wounds,” said Mr Campbell.

Cllr Pierce O’Loughlin said there has been a massive reaction in the town to the Council’s decision.

“I have never seen anything like the number of people stopping me in the street. People are really annoyed and said she should have been invited. One woman stopped me in the West Gate and said she worked for 14 years in hotels in London cleaning and she had two brothers and a sister living there and all their families were there.

“She said we have nothing against the Queen and there wasn’t a family in Carrick-on-Suir who hadn’t someone in England.”

Unlike Seamus Campbell, he believes there was a chance the Queen could have included Carrick-on-Suir’s Tudor Manor in her itinerary if the invitation from the town was sent early enough as Carrick-on-Suir was on the route of her itinerary between the Rock of Cashel and Cork.

He said Carrick-on-Suir should trade on the heritage of its Tudor Manor as best it could. Hundreds of thousands of people were still visiting John F Kennedy Park in New Ross fifty years after his visit, he pointed out.

In view of the feedback he got from people on the street in Carrick-on-Suir, Cllr O’Loughlin decided to take matters into his own hands and in his capacity as editor of the local Three Counties Newspaper sent what he described as a “people’s invite” to President Mary McAleese inviting her and the Queen to visit the town.

He received an acknowledgement forwarding the invitation to the Department of Foreign Affairs, which had responsibility for the royal visit arrangements.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, in its reply, said it would not be possible to include a visit to Carrick-on-Suir as part of Queen Elizabeth’s programme on this occasion due to the advanced state of planning for the visit at this stage.

The Department said it would hope to be in a position to consider the invitation for visits by other high level dignitaries which may arise in the future.

Former Mayor of Carrick-on-Suir Cllr Sylvia Cooney-Sheehan, one of the councillors who voted against the motion, said she had met a lot of people who believed the timing of the Queen Elizabeth 11’s visit was wrong due to the cost it will incur on the country struggling in the middle of the recession.

“It was just a very personal thing for me. I just felt where were we going to get the money to pay the security for the visit.”

Cllr Cooney-Sheehan also disputed the newspaper headline accompanying the report on the Town Council debate on Cllr O’Loughlin’s motion, which said the Queen was not welcome in Carrick-on-Suir.

“We didn’t say that. We said she was more than welcome but the timing was a little off. It’s very hard to spend money when people are queuing up to get on the housing list because they have no money. She is more than welcome, it’s just the timing. Everything is always down to timing.”