King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands visited EFFORTS partner Camden Fort Meagher on Friday 14th June 2019 as part of a three-day State visit to Ireland, the first during their six-year reign. EFFORTS is a European network of fortifications, which aims to share expertise, promote cooperation and emphasise the significance of fortified heritage as a continuing connection to our common European history and as a condition for social, economic and spatial development.
The three-day visit took place against the backdrop of intensive moves to forge closer relations between the State and the Netherlands.
The Royal couple travelled to Cork on the third day of their visit to Ireland, where they first met with the Lord Mayor of Cork City, Cllr. John Sheehan. Their Majesties King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima then travelled by boat to Cobh where their 800-passenger Dutch liner Prinsendam docked in the town, sounding its horn in celebration as the Royal couple disembarked their boat ahead of a trade delegation meeting in the Sirius Arts Centre.
From there, it was on to Crosshaven, and Camden Fort Meagher, where the Royal couple were met by Tánaiste Simon Coveney, and some local volunteer groups, including the Rescue Camden Volunteers, who King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima praised for their substantial contribution to the restoration of the Fort.
Commenting on the visit by the Dutch Royal couple to Camden Fort Meagher, John Forde, Director of Camden Fort Meagher Developments DAC (the company now responsible for the management and operation of the Fort), affirmed that:
“The feature of the visit was to get a sense of how volunteerism is integrated into the fabric of Irish community life. The Royal couple seemed keen on the impact volunteerism has on the community. It is a reflection of all the work volunteers put in over the last number of years. These volunteers are on site every weekend, summer and winter, and even mid-week too. They only take December and January off.”
Camden Fort Meagher had been closed to the public from 1989 to 2010 and buildings had fallen into disrepair and become overgrown. However, thanks to the extraordinary amount of work in the following years by the Rescue Camden Volunteers (formed in 2010), Cork County Council (owners of the fort) and local employment scheme workers, the fort is now fully operational, with an estimated 18,000 visitors entering the site in 2018. As of January 2018, Camden Fort Meagher has acted as one of the international pilot sites for the European Union Horizon 2020 CUTLER project, which aims to use big data analytics to improve and inform decision making and increase the resiliency of urban coastal locations.
As King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima posed for a photograph next to the iconic artillery symbol of Camden Fort Meagher last Friday, the Fort looked immaculate, testament to the immense work of the Recue Camden Volunteers and Cork County Council.
Camden Fort Meagher will be taking part in the 2019 EFFORTS European Fortress Day. Further details will be announced over the coming months.