Saturday 18 November 2017

Distinguished guest enjoyed herself 'very much' -- that's not just hearsay

SO, what was said away from the microphones?

From the moment they met near the steps of Aras an Uachtarain, it was clear there was a distinct warmth between President and queen.

And according to our lip-reading expert, close observation of the reams of video footage surrounding the visit reveal remarkable moments of candid warmth and humour from the royal party.

A close rapport between Queen Elizabeth and President Mary McAleese has been built up over the years, which was apparent in the relaxed conversations which took place as they flitted from venue to venue.

"It's a great welcome, isn't it?" Ms McAleese said to the queen as they met for the first time on Tuesday morning.

And later, as she bid farewell to the queen as she made her way to Trinity College, the president joked: "Have a very, very good visit to Trinity. I hope it's not too much for you."

The queen appears to be a woman of fewer words but still shows warmth, thanking a girl who greeted her with flowers on her arrival at Casement Aerodrome with "It's a lovely posy" and declaring Dublin Castle "beautiful" when she arrived there on Wednesday night.

Chatting with the GAA players in Croke Park earlier on Wednesday about travelling with their teams, she enquired "Did you start when you were quite small?"

There were also lighter moments during the visit.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, when welcoming his UK counterpart David Cameron to the state dinner, was quick to proudly point out the historic surrounds.

"Take a look -- this is our palace," he said with a dramatic flourish to a clearly amused prime minister.

Probably the one comment which was not supposed to be picked up by the microphones was that by Mrs McAleese later that evening. As the queen opened her speech with "A Uachtarain agus a chairde", her sentiment was clear.

"Wow," the President said.

There has also been much attention paid to Prince Philip, with many wondering if he would make one of his trademark gaffes. However, the prince managed to largely avoid controversy.

When visiting Trinity and examining a harp which was 1,000 years old, he told the musician: "You'd want an ear for music to play that."

It is Philip who seemed to be having the most fun throughout the trip, becoming tempted to have a pint while in the Guinness Storehouse. "I might give it a try, then," he said just before being whisked away for more official duties.

The prince -- dubbed Phil the Greek by the British press -- was also clearly pleased to see some familiar faces during the official state dinner.

Cameron

"Oh, here's William (Hague)," he said when the UK foreign secretary arrived. "Here's David (Cameron) now," he said when the prime minister arrived.

There was, of course, also the serious business, such as when the queen visited Croke Park, where 14 people were shot on Bloody Sunday, 1920.

"This is the pitch you've heard about, where the shootings happened. Everything happened that way," GAA president Christy Cooney pointed out.

On the final day of her visit yesterday, the queen was bombarded with questions from schoolchildren about whether she had enjoyed her visit. "We have, yes, very much," she said.

Irish Independent

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