CORK, Ireland -- Britain's Queen Elizabeth II concluded her historic visit to Ireland -- the first by a British monarch to the Republic -- with a visit to the southern city of Cork Friday.
Thousands lined the streets of Cork to greet the queen, whose visit has been almost universally praised for its gestures of reconciliation.
With security slightly more relaxed in Cork than in Dublin, there was a carnival atmosphere on the streets when the queen went on a walkabout to greet locals after visiting the 18th-century English market.
"We are all absolutely delighted with the visit. It was a great honor for the city," said Cork businesswoman, Claire Nash.
Tom Durcan, a butcher who trades in the English market, said he was "very excited" by the visit.
The massive security operation surrounding the visit had meant that public opportunities to see the queen were limited in Dublin.
The first two days of the visit were marked by symbolic events, including the laying of a wreath at a memorial to those who died "in the cause of Irish freedom" in successive revolts against British rule leading to independence in 1922.
The unprecedented gesture of reconciliation has been seen as a landmark in Anglo-Irish relations, which after independence were further strained by almost 30 years of violent conflict in Northern Ireland.
"A new level of respect has been reached between the two states," Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore said.
"This was the moment when our relationship crystallized into that of two equal and independent states. We can now look forward to working together and building trade together," Gilmore added.
The official engagements in Dublin culminated in a state dinner at Dublin Castle when the queen made a speech expressing sympathy for all those who had suffered in the conflict in Northern Ireland.
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny described the speech as "remarkable" and British Prime Minister David Cameron said it had struck a chord with many people.
"What she said about things that could have been done differently or not been done at all, I think will have spoken volumes to people in Ireland," the British prime minister said.
The queen's engagements Thursday were more relaxed with a visit to County Kildare, the home of Irish thoroughbreds, reflecting the queen's interest in horses.
There was a concert Thursday evening after which the queen took the stage to meet the performers and received a standing ovation from an audience of 2,000.
Earlier Friday, the queen visited the medieval buildings at the Rock of Cashel, one of Ireland's foremost attractions.
Children from a local school sang a song containing an old Irish greeting "May the road rise to meet you."
The queen also paid a private visit to Coolmore stud farm Friday.
Before her departure from Cork airport, the queen visited the Tyndall Research Institute at University College Cork.
Security has been stringent throughout the visit, which was made possible by the implementation of a power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland signed in 1998.
Police arrested 12 people on Thursday evening who were on the way to a protest and were found to be carrying rockets, flares, bottles and other potential missiles.
At least 20 people were arrested on Tuesday during protests in Dublin, where there were also a number of security alerts due to hoax bomb scares.
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