An open letter to President Obama - some handy local tips for his visit to Ireland

An open letter to President Obama - some hand local trips for his visit to Ireland
Illustration by Caty Bartholomew
Dear President Obama,

Not alone are you returning to Ireland one of these fine days, probably with your family I hear, but you will be spending almost all of your time on this Emerald Isle in the county of Fermanagh where I was bred and born.

Accordingly you are doubly and trebly welcome, and I hope the summit which brings you here with the other powerful world leaders goes well.

Consider this as an early and perhaps unique briefing document in advance of your trip. It contains the kind of local knowledge about Fermanagh and Enniskillen and the Killadeas venue for the summit which even the most astute of your aides are unlikely to access elsewhere.

In the event of you not having time to read this briefing document yourself because of office pressures I am certain, given the popularity of the Irish Voice and Irish Central that some member of your team will file this information away for your benefit.  It is probably worth its weight in gold.

It also comes from the heart. My very first infant memory is of the pink palms and smiling eyes of a young American negro soldier who comforted me after my schoolteacher mother's car ran out of petrol towards the end of World War II at a place called Lisgoole on our way home. He was a member of a largely black battalion who were training in Fermanagh in advance of the Normandy landings.

Locals said in later years that they were only boys, many of them country boys, and exceptionally friendly. They made many contacts with the Fermanagh locals during the brief time they were there before going to war.

My mother told me later that they not alone filled up her tank with precious petrol (gas to you) but they also gave her a filled green jerrycan with a brass lid which we had for years afterwards at home. 
It was also locally known that the battalion suffered atrocious losses during the bloody landings and most of them died including, probably, the young lad that soothed the mewling infant that was me with his pink palms and warm shoulder. God be kind to him.

Anyway, back to the briefing document. I know well from my reporting experience that negotiating teams at powerful political gatherings intensively monitor the conversations and chatter of that element of the local population interacting with them through all the necessary servicing and social infrastructure involved.

It is in this area I wish to afford priceless information to your team because, Mr. President, the dialect of my native county is so rich and deep and colorful that your people (and yourself if eavesdropping) are likely to be dumbfounded and misled entirely. I would hate that to happen.

For example, some waiter or barman might be heard to describe you as "a real cute whore!"  With us, especially in relation to a politician, that is a compliment rather than an insult. Take that for granted.  It is indeed probable, given your Chicago background, that you have already heard it.

If, on the other hand, a local remark indicates that you are "acting the clift" at the summit then that is a criticism not to be taken lightly. We have no respect at all for clifts.

If the summit is not going well (and there is a track record here) a local description ferried back maybe from either security folk or waiters might be that you world leaders are "making a hames of it." It is normally an accurate judgment from a politically learned race.

Worse still would be any remark indicating that you leaders are creating what we call a "pracus." Try and avoid a pracus at all costs. It is a bad messup, difficult to clean up.

And if there is any remark made that the summit has developed into "a clatty pracus" then there is no hope at all for it, so get out and go home as quickly as possible.

In our boggy and swampy county heavy cattle passing through gateways churn up the peat and clay and rainwater into a thick paste upon which they are certain to drop a lot of manure and urine. That is a classic clatty pracus around Enniskillen, and is to be avoided at all costs.

If your daughters are with you, as being reported here, they are likely to be called "cutties" in the dialect. This again is a factual compliment rather than any kind of offensive description.  The word applies to all girls below womanhood.

If you had a son he would be called a cub around Killadeas until about the age of 12 or 13. Infants of both sexes are commonly called "caudies" in an affectionate way.

Through your bedroom windows you will be viewing a lough rather than a lake when enjoying the vistas of the Erne and all the backyards you will be looking across will be haggards.

You and your team are likely to encounter somewhat unusual but indicative local surnames during your visit. There is a tribe of Loves in Fermanagh, all amiable people no matter what their trade or profession, but all also cute whores in matters of commerce and trade.

Ye may well also encounter men and women called Fee. That surname is an interesting one too because all Fees are exceptionally gifted at whatever it is they do or provide, but they also appreciate a good tip more than most.

If anyone called Noble or Armstrong is in the company at the end of the day it might be useful to know that the Nobles have no royal blood in them at all, even though a percentage of them behave as if they have.

And any Armstrong, no matter how physically slight in appearance, will be easily able to defeat even the strongest of your Secret Service personnel in the kind of arm-wrestling contests which can easily develop in late night bars.

And the Falconers know nothing at all these days about birds of prey.

Finally, in relation to any member of the visiting American party, it is my strongest hope that the word "haveral" will never be uttered by a Fermanagh tongue.

Should any older man be seen chatting up young women in an extra flirtatious way and, especially, putting his arm around them near a bar, or any kind of touching, then he may be defined by locals as "a bit of a haveral."

He won't know what that is but it is not a compliment for sure because a haveral is the Fermanagh term for an ineffectively castrated billy goat who somehow retains the sexual inclinations despite the loss of the necessary equipment.

It is my sincere hope that your party will include neither clifts or haverals and will operate at the very highest of levels throughout your stay, as doubtless you will as always.

Even though it is summer, remember to bring a big umbrella. Enjoy it all as much as you can.

Yours respectfully,
Cormac MacConnell

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