Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

G8: Game on as rumour mill hits overdrive

The G8 leaders' visit to Fermanagh later this month has spawned at least one growth industry in the cash-strapped county: tall tales. Declan Bogue reports

US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama drink Guinness as they meet local residents at Ollie Hayes pub in Moneygall (AP)
US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama drink Guinness as they meet local residents at Ollie Hayes pub in Moneygall (AP)

A fake town, they said. The bloody cheek. The Irish Times printed a little story of how some abandoned units in Enniskillen had been decorated with signage, revealing one-dimensional images of butchers stuffed with produce, or chintzy little coffee shops bustling throughout the evening.

Others took massive offence on our behalf us; the poor, unwashed citizens of Fermanagh. Somehow, in the finest traditions of Chinese whispers, a story grew legs that Enniskillen was a made-up town. Like Springfield. Only there is an actual Springfield, five miles from Enniskillen.

Ah, yes. That Enniskillen Town United soccer team that collects the odd Junior Cup was a hoax cooked up some decades ago, wasn't it? Or the Enniskillen Gaels team that captured six consecutive Fermanagh Championships and made it to two Ulster club finals. What foresight by the world leaders to create such an elaborate ruse.

Therefore, has anyone that has ever visited or lived in Enniskillen been unwittingly compliant in a massive Truman Show-style experiment? The prospect is terrifying. Best not think too hard about it.

Then there was another claim – that the village of Belcoo was a movie set. My favourite tale of Belcoo was told by former Donegal manager and hotelier Brian McEniff.

He brought a sevens team there one summer evening to take part in a festival competition. It got a bit hairy and, while McEniff was trying to pilfer a football that was left lying about, a disgruntled spectator approached the hotelier and, delivering the immortal line, "McEniff. I was at a wedding in the Holyrood (hotel) and got bad spuds", clattered his fist into his ear.

Oh, it's real and raw down Belcoo way. Take my word for it.

Here's what concerns people in Fermanagh right now:

1. Compiling the most far-fetched statistics about the G8 (favourites include how much it costs to rent a hotel room, a motel suite and the hotpress of a terraced house to the converging media);

2. Will we ever get a shower to clear the air a small bit? Farmers could be heard drawing grass the other night until the wee small hours. They could also do with another sprinkle;

3. Will Barack and Michelle attend the Ulster Championship match between Fermanagh and Cavan the day before the G8 summit commences?

Funny enough, nobody is asking if David Cameron fancies watching a bit of Gah before nailing pints of Guinness and watching The Sunday Game through a bleary-eyed perspective;;

4. Are they really going to shut down the mobile signal? What will teenage bitches and Hollister-clad himbos with itchy thumbs to text do that entire weekend?;

5. How dare they shut off Lough Erne. (This last one is ironic, as only about seven people in the county actually use the water.)

If this list were to go on, fake shopfronts would come somewhere between priority number 378 and 400. That's because we know that when the circus leaves town, they pack up all the gear behind them and all they leave is elephant dung. Everybody knows there isn't a spare bean in the county, but while this whole jamboree is here, we might as well get our kicks before the whole house goes up in flames.

In the meantime, there was a scheme whereby business owners could apply for a bit of rendering to brighten up their premises – now the town is charmingly postcard-picture perfect.

It's merely a cosmetic change and, in the background, industry and manufacturing are dead in this part of the world right now. However, it is an exceptionally lovely part of the planet.

The other day, the Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin got into an online bitchfight with filmmaker Phelim McAleer.

Most Fermanagh people I know would approve of this on two counts: McAleer is a Tyrone man and any win we get over those wans is richly cherished.

Secondly, McAleer leads the vanguard in support of fracking, the process of drilling down deep into the Earth's core to see if there's any natural gas down there that one or two people could profit from.

And if there's nothing there? Sure pull the drills up and forget about it. More elephant dung for the toothless yokels to clean up after we're gone. He is coming for Fermanagh, by the way. McAleer is the modern-day version of a snake-oil salesman. There may be little left to protect in Fermanagh, but the scenery and idyllic world free of pollution is everything.

There will be protests. Every scrap of grass and even some traffic islands have been cited as possible camp-sites.

I dearly hope they get their message across in support of local environment – in opposition to Barack Obama's marriage to drone strikes and Wall Street.

But I won't lie. Mostly, I just hope Fermanagh beat Cavan on Sunday week.

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