BARACK OBAMA told the people of Moneygall he’d be back.
There’s just one problem — he’d had a pint when he said it. A fast pint at that. He downed it like a man rescued from a sandstorm and finished every last drop, declaring it “wonderful”.
So can we believe him? Is féidir linn, as the T-shirts the enterprising Moneygall residents have been selling say.
You’d be inclined to believe anything out of Obama after yesterday’s performance in his ancestral home where he spent an hour-and-a-half — twice the official allocated time — shaking hands, kissing fans, hugging babies, signing autographs and making a village of 298 people feel like the biggest place on earth.
He made Ollie Hayes feel like the biggest man on earth. The publican — one of the village’s two, although the other is his uncle so there’s little rivalry — welcomed the president and his wife into his premises, where they instantly turned protocol on its head by making everyone there feel at home.
Lots of folksy banter filled the air, Michelle delighting in the warmth after the gale outside, her husband dishing out more kisses, hugs and handshakes.
And in what will forever more be known as his “speech by the fireplace”, he thanked profusely the people of Moneygall for preserving his past in parish records so carefully and organising his welcome so warmly. “And with that,” he declared, “I call for a pint.”
Ollie duly did his duty as the president watched intently, putting himself in the publican’s hands with their four generations of pint-pulling expertise behind him.
“You tell me when it’s properly settled,” Mr Obama told Ollie. “I don’t want to mess this up.”
He bantered on: “I have been told it makes a difference who the person behind the bar is, and that people are very particular who pulls their pint. Can people vouch for this guy?”
“What do you do while you’re waiting?” Michelle wanted to know. “And how much time did our staff spend in here?”
This wasn’t Mr Obama’s first taste of the black stuff. “The first time I had Guinness was when I came into Shannon,” he revealed. “We were going to Afghanistan and it was the middle of the night. I realised it tasted so much better here than it did in the States. I realised that you guys are keeping all the best stuff here.
“It’s quite an art. You think it’s ready? I want to get it perfect,” he said, eyeing the settling pint.
And then it was ready. Sláinte, said Mr Obama, and he went for it — a slug not a sip. “I am very impressed,” was the verdict. “It’s wonderful.”
Michelle joined him, drinking a glass, before asking to have a go at pulling a pint herself. She pulled two, perfectly, one for US Ambassador Dan Rooney and another for parish priest Fr Joe Kennedy.
The president had to cover his wife’s largesse and slapped a fifty on the counter. “I just want you to know that the president always pays his bar tab.”
And that’s how we can believe he’ll return. He’s coming back for his change.
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