Thursday 14 November 2019

When Barack talks the talk

Kim Bielenberg

AS Barack Obama came home to hunt for the apostrophe that he had mislaid on his journey to the White House, most observers could only swoon.

The US president obviously learned from the queen that the way to our hearts is through our national language. There was hardly a dry eye as he mouthed: "Is feidir linn.''

Who knows, with all this stately love for the mother tongue, we might even take the trouble to learn it ourselves some time.

Earlier, when Barack toured his ancestral village the man from the 'Boston Globe' enthused breathlessly: "This is the biggest thing to happen in Moneygall since, well, since . . . actually, nothing has ever happened in Moneygall.''

In Ireland there was barely anyone trying to dampen the ardour of our Obama love affair, but across the Irish Sea there were ill-mannered murmurings of dissent.

James Delingpole, a blogger with the 'Daily Telegraph', pooh-poohed the idea of Obama as born-again Irishman. "Ah Bejaysus and Begorrah!'' he said with the kind of humour that you thought went out with bad Irish jokes in the 1970s.

"Oi'll be swearin' boi the auld shrine to the Vorgin with the shamrocks growin' round it next to the hill where Cuchullain slew the Great Leprechaun of Kildare on St Patrick's Day that Barack Seamus O'Toole Flaherty Joyce O'Bama is the most Irish US President that ever set foot on the Emerald Oisle, so he is, so he is.''

Elsewhere, Obama received sympathy for being teamed up with Jedward in College Green. If Obama was the author of the "Audacity of Hope'', the Grimes twins were labelled the "Audacity of Dope'' by one detractor on Twitter. The twins are virtually unknown in the US, and were introduced by Chuck Todd of NBC as "Ireland's Justin Biebers''.

One of the attractions of this visit has the mind-boggling array of kit brought along by the Americans. We have not seen such an impressive range of choppers hovering above an Irish city since the Galway Races in 2006.

Inevitably the video of Obama's car, nicknamed The Beast, getting stuck on a ramp while leaving the US embassy went viral on the internet. As one observer remarked, the president's car has no problem dealing with terrorists, bombs and machine guns, but give it an Irish traffic hump and it's banjaxed in a jiffy.

Irish Independent Supplement

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