Plain sailing for French navy steaming into Limerick port after 333 years

The French naval ships docked in Limerick on Friday.

LIMERICK is being invaded by the French for the first time since they came rushing – late – to help Ireland 333 years ago during the Williamite wars.

But the flotilla of the French navy, which is making a courtesy port of call to Limerick to celebrate past and present friendship between Ireland and France, comes with only friendly intentions.

A group of 4 Bateaux-Ecole training boats for the French navy, sailed up the River Shannon on Friday (May 24) to dock in Limerick Docks for a a short few days visit.

They will be joined by a fifth today (Saturday). The boats are all named after animals, Chacal, Guépard, Léopard, Tigre, and Lynx.

The occasion will be more festive than 333 years ago, when, in 1691, the French navy came for reinforcements during the Williamite Wars of Ireland.

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However, they arrived after the siege of the city and shortly after Patrick Sarsfield had signed the Treaty of Limerick, which led to the exile to France of over 12,000 Irish soldiers who became known as the Wild Geese.

The Bateau-Ecole boats are used by the French navy to train young cadets for navigation and rescue technique. Over the weekend, members of the crew will attend the annual United Nations Peacekeepers Day ceremony held by members of Post 6 of the Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA).

Access to the port will not be open to the public for safety reasons, but the boats can be seen from Shannon Bridge.

The historical episode of the Flight of the Wild Geese and the special bond with France are commemorated annually during the Limerick Wild Geese Festival which will take place on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 July this year.