THERE is an unbreakable rule underlined in the rulebook handed to every world leader and international grand poobah who travels to Ireland.
And it reads thus: thou shalt mention/ imbibe/pose with a pint of the black stuff. Thou shalt not sip any foreign brew for thou shalt be cursed.
Over the years, visiting presidents and prime ministers galore have found themselves being whisked from aeroplane to pint of plain, hoisting aloft a Guinness for the photographers.
Some took a mighty swallow, such as Barack Obama – first in Ollie Hayes's bar in Moneygall in May 2011 and then again in local DC pub The Dubliner on St Patrick's Day last year (which was of course election year). Or stout-loving David Cameron who even toured the Guinness brewery on a trip to the capital.
But others have failed the Arthur Test. In 1985, then US president Ronald Reagan committed the near-sacrilege of rejecting Guinness to sip instead on a pint of Smithwick's while in Ireland, and Bill Clinton fared no better, committing the other sacrilege of leaving half a pint of stout behind him when he called into Cassidy's pub in Dublin in 1995 for the obligatory picture.
And then there was the sad case of poor old Prince Philip, who was a man clearly gumming for a creamy pint when he and Queen Elizabeth toured the Guinness Storehouse during the royal visit in May 2011, but had obviously been warned by the missus to behave.
But it's not just the lads – even a sophisticated dame like IMF boss Christine Lagarde, pictured, gave a shout-out to Guinness in her first words at the press conference yesterday.
She said that her good pal Michael Noonan had promised "that if I came back to Ireland for the first time as managing director of the IMF, in addition to having all the good work done, he would also offer me a Guinness. So we had the occasion of doing that yesterday for a very brief period, but certainly very enjoyable", she explained.
She, Michael and Joan Burton wandered around the corner to Doheny & Nesbitt's for a quick one after work on Thursday night (as you do). There are no pictures of La Lagarde lowering a pint, of course. The only cheese to get near a class act like the IMF chief would be served on a board with crusty bread.
A drunken solution to our bank debt
WE may be on our uppers, skint, boracic, stony-broke, but the Taoiseach is damned if he's going to let standards slip altogether when it comes to the vault of vino in Iveagh House.
Richard Boyd Barrett (inset) was on his feet in the Dail on Tuesday, giving out yards to Enda about the quadrupling of the Government's wine bill in the past year.
"Is our strategy to get them a bit tipsy in the hope that they will give us the break in respect of our debt that we have not succeeded in getting from them?" demanded the People before Profit TD, offering what sounded like a rather cunning plan to sort out our bank debts.
But Enda was damned if he was going to risk being scoffed at by those euro bigwigs who know that Claret isn't the name of Brian Cowen's hometown.
"I'm quite sure that Deputy Boyd Barrett does not want whatever meagre shelves they have in the Department of Foreign Affairs to be stocked with Blue Nun or Black Tower for the people who arrive from foreign countries," he sniffed.
Heaven forfend, even though a generation of Irish survived the '80s none the worse for lorrying into the Liebfraumilch while humming along to Chris de Burgh records.
And Enda then mused, "If we had somebody who could transform the water into wine he would be very welcome as well, I am quite sure."
Lord knows there are enough members of the Oireachtas who believe they can walk on water. But the ever-pragmatic Micheal Martin put a dampner on the Taoiseach's biblical fantasy.
"You took the embassy away from the Vatican so that is not an option any more," he reminded Enda.
Oh dear, in vino veritas indeed.
Eoin Holmes is hot property
WHAT a serendipitous name has the Labour candidate for the upcoming Meath East by-election.
The man of the moment is councillor Eoin Holmes, whose interesting day job is producer of TV shows such as 'Bachelor's Walk' and 'The Clinic'.
It should be a closely fought contest, but the Labour man could have an edge, with slogans such as Every Voter Should Have Their Eoin Holme(s).
Or maybe not.
Latest 'famous five' mulling over a moniker
FINE Gael has their five-a-side gang of TDs who like to meet and keep up their plotting practice. And it seems that Labour has now spawned a similar batch of members who get together off-campus to knock around ideas.
The quintet, which consists of Dublin deputies Aodhan O'Riordain, John Lyons, Meath East's Dominic Hannigan, Waterford's Ciara Conway and senator Ivana Bacik, last week came up with new legislation to protect gay and lesbian teachers which goes to the Seanad on Wednesday.
However the five have a dilemma – they have no gang name, and this bunch of lefties have been mulling over a moniker.
Favourites are 'the Communist Cuig', in honour of Fine Gael's Tom Barry who sniped this week that Labour's Ruairi Quinn runs the Department of Education like "a Communist state". Another contender is the 'Mullen Cumann' – this as a tongue-firmly-in-cheek homage to the more conservatively-minded senator Ronan Mullen.