Northern Ireland

Barack Obama 'causes a fuss' in Belfast

Attending an event graced by the president of the United States of America is never a simple affair.

As Barack Obama's daughters Malia and Sasha apparently told him as the first family's motorcade sped along the closed roads of Belfast, "you cause a big fuss wherever you go".

For the 1,800 students lucky enough to be at the city's Waterfront Hall, the privilege involved an early start - queuing in the rain from 06:30 BST to get through the airport-style security.

Inside, there was more waiting. Presidents, it seems, always run late.

Those in the audience should think themselves lucky - I was told that one of his predecessors, Bill Clinton, once turned up four hours late for an event here.

Barack Obama was a fashionable half-an-hour or so behind schedule.

The warm-up artist kept the audience entertained.

The man in the red jacket, looking remarkably like a Butlins Redcoat, did his best, but it was a bit like watching the support act while waiting for the main attraction.

There was music too. For a young audience from Northern Ireland, it was probably inevitable that Teenage Kicks from The Undertones would be one of the tracks played.

When the music stopped, the big men in sharp suits, wearing earpieces, appeared. The presence of the Secret Service could mean only one thing.

President Obama's arrival and his speech were greeted with wild applause and cheers. They laughed at his jokes and whooped at his local references, even when he got the pronunciation wrong.

Afterwards an excitable young man told me the experience was "better than being at a pop concert".

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