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A casual touch that so marks the differences

The queen smiles in Cork

THE contrast between regal protocol and American exuberance was writ large yesterday as the Obamas hugged, beamed and chatted their way through a day of public engagements.

While the visit by Queen Elizabeth II was hailed as a warm and relaxed success story, the difference in styles was partly due to the fact that the Queen came to Ireland on a State visit, while the Obamas were here on an official visit.

So there was no military flyover or gun salute for the Americans which was part of the protocol for the British welcome.

Also, the rules are set in stone for a British monarch, so touching her, except for a light grasp of her proffered hand is forbidden.

Etiquette also prohibits the royals from eating or drinking in public, which is why Prince Philip was denied even a sup of his pint. Both Barack and Michelle Obama took a long gulp out of the black stuff -- he then casually offered to buy pints all round.

The presidential couple seemed determined to make contact with as many people as possible, with the first lady appearing more excited than the waiting crowds.

While his detractors may have accused Obama of lacking the common touch, there was no evidence of it here yesterday.

Irish Independent Supplement