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March 13, 2005

Sinn Fein's Vote Increases

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Mar 2005

News about Ireland & the Irish

BB 03/13/05 Sinn Fein's Vote Increases By 3%
BB 03/13/05 Will Events Affect SF's Fortunes?
EN 03/13/05 Sinn Fein's Adams: Put Us Back On Peace Train
NP 03/13/05 Family Of Murder Victim Spurns IRA Offer –A
TO 03/13/05 Satellite Reveals Hideout Deep In The Jungle Used By IRA Fugitives
TE 03/13/05 Sinn Fein's Fitness For Government Questioned
ST 03/13/05 Opin: These Irish Eyes Are Smiling At White House Snub Of IRA
TU 03/13/05 For A Day, Saint Is Toast Of Town
NP 03/13/05 Stories By The Fire: Frank Delaney's 'Ireland' –A


Sinn Fein's Vote Increases By 3%

Sinn Féin has received more than 12% of the vote in a by-election in the Irish Republic - up almost 3% on their previous vote in the constituency.

The party's candidate Joe Reilly received 12.2% of first preference votes in Meath.

Mr Reilly, a former IRA prisoner, received 9.4% in the 2002 general election.

It was the first electoral test of the party since the murder of Robert McCartney and the Northern Bank raid.

Sinn Fein said it was delighted by Mr Reilly's performance after what it called "a campaign of vilification" against the party.

The seat was previously held by the former Irish prime minister, Fine Gael's John Bruton.

Fine Gael's Shane McEntee won the by-election after defeating Fianna Fáil's Shane Cassells by 2,869 votes in the fourth and final count.

Mr Reilly and Labour's Dominic Hannigan were eliminated on the previous count.

In another by-election in Kildare North, independent candidate Catherine Murphy was elected on the fifth count.

Turnout in both constituencies was reported to be low with an estimated 40% of voters going to the polls in Meath, and an estimated 37% in Kildare North.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/03/13 11:38:57 GMT


Will Events Affect SF's Fortunes?

By Mark Devenport

BBC Northern Ireland political editor

Last week, shortly after the McCartney sisters' appearance at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis, I surmised that the party's publicity coup in securing the family's attendance might take some of the political sting out of their campaign for justice.

However, a week is a long time in politics.

As the McCartneys prepare to fly out to the United States no one can argue that their campaign has diminished in either its media profile or its potential for doing damage to Sinn Fein.

All the hard work of the Sinn Fein spin doctors who persuaded the McCartneys to travel to Dublin, was undone in an instant by the infamous IRA statement which publicised the organisation's offer to shoot those responsible for Robert McCartney's murder.

It is true that much of the IRA statement dwelt on the organisation's guarantees of safety to any witnesses that might come forward.

But the bald threat of summary justice made headlines around the world, and the revelation that the sisters had turned the IRA's offer down elevated them to yet more moral heights.

Now, as the St Patrick's week events in the USA are about to start, it has emerged a Sinn Fein assembly election candidate, Cora Groogan, was in Magennis's bar in Belfast when the fight erupted which eventually led to Mr McCartney's death.

Ms Groogan says she saw nothing and has made a statement to her solicitor, with instructions for it to be passed on to the Police Ombudsman.

But Mr McCartney's family remain unhappy that the Mid Ulster candidate did not approach directly either the detectives investigating the case or the Police Ombudsman investigators who have powers to take statements which can be used as evidence in court.

Gerry Adams told the sisters at his Ard Fheis "we are on your side", but the sisters must be wondering about this in the light of recent developments.

In the USA, the McCartneys will have their chance to put their views to the likes of Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton and President Bush.

Gerry Adams, excluded from the White House along with the other politicians, could find this trip less comfortable than some of his previous forays across the Atlantic.

But once the focus on the White House has come and gone, will the McCartney murder and the allegations about the Northern Bank raid have any long term detrimental impact on the rise and rise of Sinn Fein?

This remains hard to assess.

Despite some opinion polls suggesting a fall in Sinn Fein's fortunes south of the border, their Meath by-election candidate, Joe Reilly, turned in a very respectable performance - increasing his vote from 9% in 2002 to just over 12%.

'Quick conclusions'

North of the border, a Belfast Telegraph poll appeared to suggest a slide in Sinn Fein support of 3.5% since the assembly elections of November 2003.

But on closer inspection a similar poll taken on the eve of those elections had understated Sinn Fein support by 3.5% and overstated SDLP support by 5%.

That enabled Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness to shrug off the latest results and predict that his party will confound its critics when the general election is held.

Certainly, the latest allegations about IRA activity of various kinds will give the battle for the nationalist vote extra potency.

However, it would be foolhardy to jump to quick conclusions about precisely how recent events will influence the contest.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/03/13 10:30:13 GMT


 Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams, Party Leader Of Sinn Fein, Spoke Saturday In Cincinnati As He Launches An American Tour. The Enquirer/Meggan Booker

Sinn Fein's Adams: Put Us Back On Peace Train

By Jennifer Edwards
Enquirer staff writer

DOWNTOWN - On the eve of Cincinnati's annual St. Patrick's Day parade, Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams visited here Saturday to launch a weeklong American tour as he seeks support from Irish-American activists.

Adams, a reputed Irish Republican Army commander since the mid 1970s, addressed about 75 supporters Saturday at the Millennium Hotel downtown and then spoke at a plumbers and pipe fitters union hall in Over-the-Rhine.

The purpose of his trip, Adams said, is to tell American supporters about grave difficulties in the peace process in Northern Ireland as he musters support to get the process back on track after recent violence.

"It is in crisis because in any process of change some people feel threatened by that change," Adams said. "We have to prevail. This is bigger than Sinn Fein. This is bigger than party politics."

"Every time we get a setback we have to pick ourselves up and start again."

Adams plans to travel to New York today before going on to New Jersey on Monday, Philadelphia on Tuesday, Washington D.C. on Wednesday and Thursday and visiting Cleveland on Friday.

Before Adams' speech Saturday, Cincinnati City Councilman David Crowley gave Adams a key to the city.

"It's rare that you get the opportunity to meet someone like Gerry Adams, who has done so much and paid such a high price for the causes that he believes in so deeply," Crowley said.

Crowley said Adams has devoted his life to the civil rights and human rights movements and to promoting peace, demonstrating "outstanding" personal and political courage.

Adams also has endured imprisonment and even the firebombing of his home, he said.

"In spite of all that, he is someone who understands the importance of nonviolence and achieving change even at a time and place engulfed in violence," Crowley said.

Many supporters who turned out Saturday agreed.

"Sinn Fein is a politically viable, respectable organization," said Stan Albro, 62, of Oakley, who teaches English and German at East End Community Heritage School.

But the Bush administration has not given Adams such a warm reception.

For the first time since 1995, Adams this year is forbidden to raise money, visit the White House or attend Capitol Hill functions on St. Patrick's Day, the focal point for Irish-American political activity.

Adams said after his speech Saturday that he is disappointed but does not feel snubbed, noting that the president hasn't invited any of the other parties.

"Of course that's a disappointment but that's a matter for the president," Adams said. "I don't come here with any special rights to the White House or anywhere else. I come here as a guest and I am thankful for the opportunity."

American and British authorities are upset that the IRA still is armed nearly seven years after a peace accord.

Adams was banned from visiting the United States until 1994, when President Clinton overturned State Department policy to encourage an IRA cease-fire that year.

Clinton's interest in bringing Sinn Fein into the political mainstream encouraged another IRA cease-fire in 1997 and spurred Sinn Fein to back Northern Ireland's complex Good Friday peace accord of 1998.

But a painstakingly negotiated deal to revive a Catholic-Protestant administration fell apart in December when the IRA refused Protestant leaders' demand to allow photographs of its disarmament and ignored the Irish government's demand that the outlawed group's promise to end its involvement in crime.

Since then, the peace process has been downhill.

The IRA has been blamed for mounting the biggest bank robbery in history, when a gang stole currency worth $50 million from a Belfast bank on Dec. 20, killing a Catholic civilian in a Belfast pub brawl on Jan. 30, then destroying evidence and intimidating witnesses, and laundering millions of dollars annually from illegal rackets.

Raising the temperature higher, the Irish government has accused Adams of sanctioning the bank robbery and has identified him as a current IRA commander.

The U .S. envoy to Northern Ireland, Mitchell Reiss, last week joined joint British-Irish demands for the IRA to disarm fully and disband.

He also chided Adams for refusing to accept law and order.

Adams, Sinn Fein and the IRA have rejected most of the charges. And Adams is due to meet Wednesday in Washington with Reiss.

Adams on Saturday urged supporters to lobby President Bush and members of Congress on behalf of Sinn Fein and to not let the peace process get bogged down.

He also said Sinn Fein wants the IRA to end.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Family Of Murder Victim Spurns IRA Offer -A

by Nessa Tierney

Morning Edition, March 10, 2005 · The Bush administration joins the British government in condemning an Irish Republican Army offer to shoot some of its own members as punishment for killing a man in Belfast in January. The family of the dead man rejected the offer and said fear of retribution is preventing witnesses to the killing from coming forward.


Satellite Reveals Hideout Deep In The Jungle Used By IRA Fugitives

SATELLITE pictures have shown the location of a rebel camp deep in the Venezuelan jungle believed to be a hideout used by three IRA fugitives, writes Martin Arostegui.

The photographs show an enclosure in a clearing in the Perija mountain range, close to the border with Colombia. The camp is believed to belong to Colombian guerrillas of the left-wing Farc movement.

James Monaghan, Niall Connolly and Martin McCauley jumped bail in Colombia last year. They were sentenced to 17 years’ jail in their absence for training Farc in IRA mortar techniques.

The co-ordinates of the camp the men have used — 10 degrees, 29 minutes, 56 seconds north, by 72 degrees, 44 minutes, 56 seconds west — were disclosed by Colombian intelligence to members of a Northern Ireland victims’ group. The camp in the picture, taken last year before the IRA men’s visit, coincides with these co-ordinates.

Venezuelan asylum for Colombian insurgents is a highly sensitive issue. The countries clashed in January when the Colombian government paid Venezuelan bounty hunters to seize a Farc leader in Caracas and bundled him across the border to face terrorism charges.

Relations have since improved and two weeks ago the Venezuelan authorities arrested three Farc suspects and have recently sealed off some roads in Tachira, the province in which the IRA men’s hideout is located.

This weekend Ernesto Amezquita Camacho, a lawyer who defended the men at the time of their capture in 2001, claimed: “I thought they had returned to their families.”


Sinn Fein's Fitness For Government Questioned

(Filed: 13/03/2005)

The family of Robert McCartney have challenged Sinn Fein's fitness for government following revelations that one of its election candidates was in Magennis's bar on the night he was murdered.

Cora Groogan, who stood for the Stormont Assembly in Nov 2003, has admitted that she was in the city centre pub, which was the centre of a brawl which led to the father-of-two being stabbed to death.

However, she denied seeing anything inside the bar, including Mr McCartney's friend Brendan Devine having his throat cut, adding: ""There was a commotion in the bar but I witnessed nothing and left shortly after 11pm."

Robert's sister Catherine McCartney said the issue raised serious concerns about Sinn Fein's attitude to democracy and justice.

"Ultimately this person could have been sitting as a government minister, overlooking policing and justice.

"Initially Sinn Fein's first response was that she left the bar at 8.30pm, then they came back with the statement that she left at 11pm and saw nothing.

"This is an accountable political party. I think people are intelligent enough to figure out themselves whether this is the type of party they want running the country."

Miss McCartney confirmed that she was considering running as an independent candidate in the South Belfast constituency in the Westminster election.

But she was unable to substantiate claims that three of her sisters would run in the other Belfast constituencies.

However, it is understood that elder sister Paula intends running in the Short Strand area of east Belfast in the local council poll.

Meanwhile, Ms Groogan is facing demands from the McCartney family and political opponents to make a fresh statement to police or Northern Ireland's Police Ombudsman.

Alasdair McDonnell, the SDLP deputy leader, called on the Sinn Fein representative to co-operate fully with the police.

He said: "It is plain useless for her to give a statement to a solicitor. She needs to go the people who are piecing together what happened on the night - the police and police ombudsman's investigators.

"If she fails to do so, then she is failing the McCartney's campaign for justice. Her failure to do so to date makes a mockery of Sinn Fein's supposed support for the family."

Ms McCartney, who is planning to visit the United States next week with her sisters Paula, Gemma, Claire and Donna in a bid to highlight the case, said the intense political activity around their campaign was not being matched by information on the ground being given to detectives.

"We are adamant that people who know what happened should give that information," she said.

Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Fein chief negotiator, said: "People have a duty to help the McCartney family achieve the truth and justice that they deserve."


Opin: These Irish Eyes Are Smiling At White House Snub Of IRA

March 13, 2005
BY Mark Steyn Sun-Times Columnist

Happy St. Patrick's Day to my fellow hyphenated Irishmen. And the good news about this St. Paddy's Day is that for the first time in a decade the official observances will not be disfigured by the presence at the White House of Gerry Adams.

Adams is usually billed as the "President of Sinn Fein," which in turn is usually billed as the "political wing" of the IRA. This artful form of words is supposed to suggest some kind of distinction between "President" Adams and the murkier fellows who do all the bombing and killing and knee-capping. In fact, as the Irish government recently revealed, "President" Adams is a member of the Provisional IRA's ruling "army council" -- i.e., the fellows who order all the bombing and killing and knee-capping.

So instead of one more chorus of "The Wearing of the Green," it's the wearing out of the welcome for Adams at the White House. In his place, President Bush will welcome the fiancee and five sisters of Robert McCartney. McCartney was a Belfast Catholic and a Sinn Fein supporter, but he made the mistake of getting into an argument with a Provisional IRA big shot in a pub in January. The other "Provos" present grabbed McCartney, beat him with iron sewer rods, slit him open from his neck to his navel, severed his jugular and jumped on his head, causing what was left of it to lose an eye. There were 70 witnesses in the bar but none of them saw a thing.

Depravity-wise, what exactly is the difference between McCartney's murder and the lynching of the four U.S. contractors in Fallujah? None -- except that the organization responsible for the former has enjoyed a decade of White House photo-ops.

Bridgeen Hagans, the late McCartney's fiancee, and his sisters are in America as part of their campaign to persuade some of the dozens of witnesses to his killing to come forward. They're reluctant to do so because, as in any third-rate gangster state, testifying against the local warlords can be severely injurious to one's own health. Recognizing that they had a public relations disaster on their hands, the IRA then offered to make amends to McCartney's grieving loved ones. You're right, they said, it was all a mistake, but don't worry, we're really sorry about it -- and, just to show how sorry we are, we'll murder his murderers for you. As an afterthought, they acknowledged that, as a lot of folks were upset by the brutality of the McCartney whack job, when they got around to murdering his murderers, they'd eschew the sewer rods, abdomen-slitting, etc., and just do it nice and clean with a bullet straight to the head. Very decent of them.

There's a lesson there in the reformability of terrorists. The IRA's first instinct is to kill. If you complain about the killing, they offer to kill the killers. If you complain about the manner of the killing, they offer to kill more tastefully -- "compassionate terrorism,'' as it were. But it's like Monty Python's spam sketch: There's no menu item that doesn't involve killing. You can get it in any color as long as it's blood-red.

For the last 3-1/2 years one of the most persistent streams of correspondence I've had is from British readers sneering, ''Oh-ho. So America's now waging a war on 'terror,' is she? Well, where were the bloody Yanks the last 30 years? Passing round the collection box for IRA donations in the bars of Boston and New York, that's where.''

They have a point. Blowing up grannies and schoolkids at bus stops is always wrong, and the misty shamrock-hued sentimentalization of it in this particular manifestation speaks poorly for America, the principal source for decades of IRA funding. On the other hand, it was the London and Dublin governments, not Washington, that decided they were going to accommodate the IRA, Her Majesty's government going so far at one point as to install Gerry Adams and his colleagues in the coalition administration of Northern Ireland, making IRA terrorists ministers of a crown they don't even deign to recognize.

Now Tony Blair & Co. profess to be shocked to discover that the leopard hasn't changed his spots. But, until January, if you raised the IRA's vicious methods of retribution against dissident Catholics, British officials would chortle urbanely and assure you it was just a little ''internal housekeeping'' by Adams and his chums.

So London and Dublin have only themselves to blame for the present situation. By enhancing the prestige of the terrorists, they've enabled Sinn Fein to supplant moderate Catholic political parties in both Northern and Southern Ireland. Because they no longer have to engage in the costly and time-consuming business of waging war against the British Army, they've been free to convert themselves into the emerald isle's answer to the Russian Mafia. They recently pulled off the biggest bank heist in British history -- snaffling just shy of 50 million bucks from the vaults of Ulster's Northern Bank. What do they need that money for? Well, it helps them fund their real objective: the takeover of southern Ireland.

In hindsight, the '90s were the apogee of terrorist mainstreaming, with Yasser and Gerry given greater access to the White House than your average prime minister of a friendly middle-rank power. And in return for what? Nothing other than the corrosive impact on weak-willed Westerners desperate to believe that all terrorists can somehow be accommodated if you just roll out the red carpet for them. Witness Robert McNamara, the Kennedy/Johnson defense secretary who popped up last week with a particularly fatuous observation even by his own standards: As Associated Press reported, ''McNamara added that the threat of terrorists using a nuclear device could be reduced if the United States in particular tried to understand terrorists' anger and motivations.''

As we now know, even the saner end of the terrorism business is difficult to house train. If your main expertise is in killing people, it's hardly surprising the prospect of being deputy transport minister in Belfast seems a bit tame. President Bush, unlike his predecessor, is under no illusions about the trustworthiness of Adams, any more than he was of Arafat's. After he declared his "war on terror," many on the right mocked the idea of being at war with a phenomenon. But the IRA has long ties to the PLO and to Latin American terrorist groups: Terrorists gravitate to other terrorists. So this March 17 the president is merely following the logic of his own post-9/11 analysis. St. Patrick chased the snakes out of Ireland. The least Bush can do is chase them out of the White House.


For A Day, Saint Is Toast Of Town

Under clear and chilly skies, thousands turn out for boisterous celebration of city's Irish heritage

By ROBERT LOPEZ, Staff writer
First published: Sunday, March 13, 2005

ALBANY -- Thousands of revelers clad in green lined Central Avenue on Saturday to watch Albany's 55th annual St. Patrick's Day parade.

The city awoke under several inches of snow, but the mile-and-a-half-long procession -- which consisted of nine divisions, including groups from Menands, Schenectady and Colonie -- marched under clear skies and on clean streets.

The temperature hovered at 35 with a slight breeze, though some decided to brave the weather in T-shirts and kilts. Kenny Smith of New Lebanon showed up wearing his original family tartan, short sleeves and two big shamrocks painted on his face and the side of his head.

"Weather is not a problem," he said taking a swig from a thermos filled with Absolut Citron vodka and Kool-Aid. "Pneumonia is for tomorrow."

Rich Gibson, parade chairman, said he would have marched through almost anything. Organizers have only been forced to postpone the parade once and that was in 1993, when nearly 2 feet of snow blanketed the area.

"The weather on St. Patrick's Day isn't supposed to be 95," he said. The actual holiday is Thursday, when highs are expected to reach into the 40s.

The party started early at Pauly's Hotel. Outside on the slushy sidewalks, the crowd was knocking back cans of beer wrapped in brown paper and blowing into green plastic horns. By about 1 p.m., the intersection of Central Avenue and Quail Street, where the parade started, was a sea of green hats, sweaters and beads.

"I've barely stopped drinking since yesterday," said George Odom of Albany, who was waving an Irish flag. "I took a three-hour nap. But I'm feeling great. I'm happy. It's a nice day."

Marchers took off at about 2 p.m., with grand marshal Maggie Gilroy, a longtime member of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the tartan-clad Schenectady Pipe Band in the lead. Groups in the procession included the Albany Police Pipes and Drums, the New York State Corrections Emerald Society and the Dan McCann unit of Capital District Irish Northern Aid, which carried a banner demanding that "England get out of Ireland." Several revelers broke out into a jig around the group's pickup truck, which was blaring Irish music.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., also made an appearance.

"Let's hear it for Albany," he yelled, as he walked over to the crowd to shake a few hands.

A pair of Humvees carrying a group of soldiers elicited the most enthusiasm. Several people tried to hand them beads and bottles of beer as they drove past.

"The troops were awesome," Lynne Rutnik of Delmar said.

The parade lasted about an hour, but nearby bars remained packed. Some, though, preferred smaller celebrations.

"We have an annual St. Patrick's party at home," said Kristen Eagan of Schenectady, who showed up with her kids. "Mainly family and friends."


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Stories By The Fire: Frank Delaney's 'Ireland' -A

Jerry Bauer

Delaney theorizes that the Irish have traditionally been good communicators because the absence of education gave rise to a verbal subversiveness.

Ireland: A Novel centers on a mysterious storyteller in 1951 Ireland.

Weekend Edition - Saturday, March 12, 2005 · In a way, Frank Delaney's Ireland: A Novel is a story about a story: One evening in 1951, a mysterious old man stops at a house in the Irish countryside and imparts a tale so epic and striking that one of the listeners, a boy of nine, sets out to find the tale-teller again after he leaves.

Delaney, who was born in Tipperary, Ireland, offers in his book a tour of his homeland that spans centuries, encompassing both myth and reality. He is a noted broadcaster for the BBC and the author of eight other novels. In a conversation with Scott Simon, Delaney talks about Ireland's strong history of folklore and narration.

Read an Excerpt of Ireland by Frank Delaney

Wonderfully, it was the boy who saw him first. He glanced out of his bedroom window, then looked again and harder -- and dared to hope. No, it was not a trick of the light; a tall figure in a ragged black coat and a ruined old hat was walking down the darkening hillside; and he was heading toward the house.

The stranger's face was chalk-white with exhaustion, and he stumbled on the rough ground, his hands held out before him like a sleepwalker's. He looked like a scarecrow deserting his post. High grasses soaked his cracked boots and drenched his coat hems. A mist like a silver veil floated above the ground, broke at his knees, and reassembled itself in his wake. In this twilight fog, mysterious shapes appeared and dematerialized, so that the pale walker was never sure he had seen merely the branches of trees or the arms of mythic dancers come to greet him. Closer in, the dark shadows of the tree trunks twisted into harsh and threatening faces.

Across the fields he saw the yellow glow of lamplight in the window of a house, and he raised his eyes to the sky in some kind of thanks. With no fog on high, the early stars glinted like grains of salt. He became aware of cattle nearby, not yet taken indoors in this mild winter. Many lay curled on the grass where they chewed the cud. As he passed, one or two lurched to their feet in alarm and lumbered off.

And in the house ahead, the boy, nine years old and blond as hay, raced downstairs, calling wildly to his father.

The stranger's bones hurt, and his lungs ached almost beyond endurance. Hunger intensified his troubles; he'd eaten one meal in three days. The calm light in the window ahead pulled him forward in hope. If he held their attention, he might get bed and board for a week -- and maybe more. In the days of the High King at Tara, a storyteller stayed seven days and seven nights. Did they know that? Nobody knew anything anymore.

With luck, though, the child in this house would help. Children want stories, and the parents might stretch their hospitality, fired by the delight in the boy's eyes. Unlike last night's billet; high up on a hill farm, he had slept in a loft above the cows, where the east wind got at his bones. The ignorant people there, who had no use for stories, gave him no food and closed their fireside to him. It happened more and more.

But this house would surely prove better; and it was, after all, Halloween, the great time of the year for telling stories, the time of All Souls', when the dead had permission to rise from their graves and prowl the land.

Over the last few hundred yards the fog dispersed into flitters and wisps. At the house, a small white gate opened from the lane into a country garden, which in summer would shine with bunched roses and morning glories and tresses of sweet pea. The tall man in the black coat rapped twice on a brass knocker. Immediately, the husband of the house opened the door.


The stranger and the householder exchanged a solid handshake, eye to eye. Behind his father, the boy waited in the hallway, jigging from foot to foot.

"God save all here," said the stranger; he hunched his shoulders nervously.

Over the years, his voice had grown deep and rotund. His manner and speech had an unusual formality, with trace elements of stately English from an earlier century and a hint of classical learning. Consequently, his language rang generally more colorful than the speech of the people he met every day.

The man of the house smiled and stood aside.

"Come in. You brought clear skies to us."

"With your permission, I'll bring clear thoughts too."

"Your coat is wet -- let me take it."

The man extended a cold, bony hand to the boy peeking around his father's waist.

"A fine boy. God save you too, ma'am!" called the Storyteller to the woman of the house.

She looked irked, and he guessed that he, this stringy, unwashed man, with skin like canvas, would disrupt her rigorous household; nonetheless she set a place for him while her husband, pleased and comfortable, poured the visitor a drink.

The boy watched the stranger attacking the food like a tired hound. He sensed that the man's hunger fought with the man's decorum. Nobody spoke because the newcomer seemed too famished to be interrupted. The boy examined the man's face, saw the long, thin scar, wondered if he had been in a knife fight, perhaps with a sailor on some foreign quayside.

And the sodden boots -- in his mind he saw the stranger fording streams, climbing out of gullies, traversing slopes of limestone shale on his endless travels across the country. Did he have a dog? Seemingly not, which was a pity, since a dog could have sat guard by the fire at night. Did the man ever sleep in caves? They said that bears and wolves had long been extinct in Ireland -- but had they?

That evening, in that white house among the fields, a boy's most passionate dream came true. His father had long talked of the traveling storytellers. He said they possessed brilliant powers; they brought the long-gone past to life vividly, without what he called "the interference of scholars. Those professors," he said. "They dry out history in order to put it down on paper." In his father's view, a tale with the feeling taken out of it had "no blood and was worth very little."

But the old stories, told by traveling storytellers round the fireside on winter evenings -- they came hurtling straight down the long, shiny pipeline of the centuries, and the characters, all love and hate and fire, "tumbled out on our own stone floor."

Excerpt printed with permission from HarperCollins Publishers.

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