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October 23, 2006

Hain Optimist Over Resolution

News About Ireland & The Irish

BB 10/23/06 Hain 'Optimistic Over Resolution'
IT 10/24/06 St Andrews Referendum Looks Unlikely
SF 10/24/06 O'Toole Named Vice Chair Of Dublin Jnt Policing Committee
BB 10/23/06 'No Need' For New MI5 Base In NI
BB 10/23/06 Garda Cleared In Omagh Bomb Case
BN 10/23/06 Adams Wins Extra Funding For Conway Mill
BN 10/23/06 Hungary: Police Fire On Protesters During McAleese Visit
BN 10/23/06 Hain: Northern Economy Not Sustainable
IT 10/24/06 Backing For Police & Powersharing Essential Says Dr Eames
IT 10/24/06 Archbishop Looks Back On Some 'Amazing Happenings'
BN 10/23/06 Irish Teens Down And Out In London
IT 10/24/06 US Documents Say Up To Six Islamist Terror Groups In State
TB 10/23/06 Welcome To The Renaissance
IT 10/24/06 Kerry Festival To Show Over 100 Films


Hain 'Optimistic Over Resolution'

The secretary of state has said he remains cautiously
optimistic that problems surrounding the St Andrews
Agreement can be resolved.

Speaking in Belfast, Peter Hain said he was not worried
about the current NI political situation.

He said the row over the DUP insistence that Sinn Fein
pledge support for the PSNI before electing first and
deputy first ministers was a glitch.

SF is debating whether to back the PSNI but "is not ready
to vote on it".

Mr Hain said anyone who wanted to turn a glitch into a
crisis had the ability to make that happen, but he did not
believe it would happen.

The DUP wants a pledge of support for policing in place
before DUP leader Ian Paisley and SF's Martin McGuinness
can become shadow first and deputy first minister.

The St Andrews Agreement stated that before the government
legislated on the pledge of office, "it will consider the
outcome of further Preparation for Government Committee
discussions on policing and the rule of law".

The Northern Ireland parties have been given until 10
November to respond to what the governments are calling the
St Andrews Agreement.

It was published after intensive three-day talks between
the parties at St Andrews in Scotland.

'Benefit greatly'

If all goes to plan, a first and deputy first minister will
be nominated on 24 November and the devolved institutions
will be up and running by 26 March.

Mr Hain was speaking at a plenary conference of the
British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body.

Politicians from across the UK and Ireland are meeting
colleagues from the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands for
the conference at the Waterfront Hall.

Joint chairman Pat Carey said the Republic of Ireland was
ready to fund a package for Northern Ireland's
infrastructure as part of a potential devolution deal.

"The north will benefit, but the south will benefit
greatly," he said

"The north-south economic corridor has been very important,
but equally is the western corridor from Donegal, down
through Cavan-Monaghan, Fermanagh, Galway, Sligo and right
down into Clare.

"There is balanced and sustainable regional development
right across the island."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/10/23 15:49:37 GMT


St Andrews Referendum Looks Unlikely

Stephen Collins, Political Correspondent

A referendum in both parts of the island to ratify the St
Andrews Agreement in the spring now appears unlikely,
following a clear indication from the Northern Secretary,
Peter Hain, yesterday that new elections to the Northern
Assembly, rather than a referendum, is the favoured option.

The Taoiseach had announced the Government's intention of
holding a referendum in the Republic to give constitutional
underpinning to the St Andrews Agreement. This approach was
opposed by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, who maintained that
constitutional change was unnecessary.

Speaking at the meeting of the British-Irish Inter-
Parliamentary Body in Belfast yesterday, Mr Hain said that
while a decision on whether or not to hold a referendum in
the Republic was a matter for the Irish Government, it was
his view that the St Andrews Agreement did not involve
changes in the Belfast Agreement of a constitutional kind.

He was responding to a question from the Fine Gael Justice
spokesman, Jim O'Keeffe, who asked him his views on the
constitutional implications.

Mr Hain said that if the St Andrews Agreement was
implemented as planned there would be some kind of
consultative process with the voters in February or March
of next year. either through, a referendum, North and
South, or elections to the Assembly.

Accepting that the St Andrews Agreement did not involve a
constitutional change in the Belfast Agreement, he said it
was a matter for the Irish Government and the Attorney
General, Rory Brady, to decide on whether they would have a
referendum. He added that one of the problems about a
referendum was that there would have to be financial
backing from the state for both the yes and no campaigns.

Mr Hain said that the two largest parties in the North, the
DUP and Sinn Féin, favoured an election rather than a
referendum with the DUP in particular being attached to the
notion of an election in order to give them both a clear
mandate and a four-year term of office.

He said that the next Assembly election is scheduled for
May 2008 but there was an argument about whether it made
sense to have an election at that stage, when the Executive
would only have been in power for a year, or whether it
would be better to have one immediately so that it could
have a clear four-year term ahead of it.

Mr Hain said he was "pretty optimistic" that the St Andrews
Agreement would work and he said that the current glitches
were just that and should not prove insurmountable.

"The growth and economic advance in the Republic has turned
it into a global success story. There has never been a more
favourable time to have a permanent political settlement,"
he said.

When asked whether the Republic should contribute
financially to the development of the Northern economy he
pointed out that funding had been provided for Derry
Airport and that similar cross-border funding made sense.

He said that there had been pressure from the Republic to
develop the Ulster Canal and it was an obvious case for
funding from the southern side of the Border.

"They have the money at the moment. We don't," he said.

© The Irish Times


O'Toole Named Vice Chair Of Dublin Joint Policing Committee

Published: 23 October, 2006

Sinn Féin Councillor Larry O'Toole has been named vice
chairperson of the Dublin Joint Policing Committee at its
inaugural meeting this afternoon. Speaking after his
appointment councillor O'Toole said he will use his new
position to strengthen the committee and to promote genuine
partnership between the Gardaí and local communities.

He said, "I am very pleased to have been appointed vice
chair of the new Dublin Joint Policing Committee. I will
work in this capacity to strengthen the powers of the
committee and to promote genuine partnership between the
Gardaí and local communities.

"People across Dublin will be looking to this committee to
offer solutions to the scourge of anti-social behaviour and
open drug dealing in our communities and I will be working
to ensure that is exactly what they get.

"Sinn Féin is calling for a series of public meetings to
take place across the city in the coming months to allow
greater input on these issues from local communities. I
would encourage as many people as possible to attend these
meetings." ENDS


'No Need' For New MI5 Base In NI

The decision to build a new base for MI5 in NI has been
criticised by a member of the Policing Board.

Brendan Duddy, who for years acted as a secret link between
republicans and the British government, said there was no
longer any need for the agency.

He said constructing the complex was akin to an "air raid
shelter being built after the war was over".

The security services will assume responsibility for
national security matters in the province next year.

"People who don't know how security services work - like
MI5, MI6 and the various other ones throughout the world -
have all sorts of fantasies and notions," he said.

"What I am saying to MI5 is tell us what you are doing

"From a republican point of view, people feel simply that
they are here to watch the IRA.

"I am saying that the IRA has stood down. The arms have
been decommissioned and we don't need this type of rumour."

The M15 complex is being built at Palace Barracks in
Holywood, County Down.


The organisation is due to take over the lead role in
intelligence involving national security in Northern
Ireland by the end of 2007.

Until now, the PSNI Special Branch has had overall

In future, while police handlers will continue to work with
individual agents they will, in some cases, report back to

During the Troubles, MI5 officers were based at Stormont
Castle - their shift of premises coincides with a shift of

MI5 works from its headquarters at Thames House in London.

Its current chief, Dame Eliza Manningham Buller, is a
former head of the service's Irish counter-terrorism desk.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/10/23 17:33:01 GMT


Garda Cleared In Omagh Bomb Case

A judge in Dublin has directed that a not guilty verdict be
found in the trial of two Irish police officers.

Liam Donnelly and John Fahy were charged with perjury
during the trial five years ago of Colm Murphy on Omagh
bomb conspiracy charges.

However, the judge said evidence against the men was

Mr Murphy's conviction and 14-year jail sentence was
quashed last year after the Appeal Court found the evidence
of the two gardai was unreliable.

He faces a retrial next year.

Mr Murphy was charged with conspiracy to cause the Omagh

The evidence against him was substantially based on the
alleged use of his mobile phones by some of the bombers.

At his trial in 2001 and in 2002, the Special Criminal
Court in Dublin heard evidence from experts called by Mr
Murphy's defence who examined interrogation notes using
electrostatic document analysis and said that those taken
by Detectives Fahy and Donnelly had been altered.

The tests concluded that a different page had been added to
their notes.

The two detectives swore on oath that they did not alter
the interview notes, but the judges at Mr Murphy's trial
concluded that the detectives had altered the notes and
said they had lied in court in their evidence.

However, at Monday's hearing, both Mr Donnelly and Mr Fahy
were found not guilty of two counts of perjury and were
also acquitted of two counts of forging notes of interview
with Mr Murphy.

Delivering his verdict the judge said that the prosecution
had been unable to establish a chain of custody in relation
to the original notes of interview or of the later
electrostatic document analysis.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/10/23 20:12:14 GMT


Adams Wins Extra Funding For Conway Mill

23/10/2006 - 20:32:08

Conway Mill in west Belfast is in line for a facelift after
the British government agreed to significant extra
investment, the MP for the area said tonight.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams was speaking after meeting
Northern Ireland Office Minister Maria Eagle to press for
progress on recommendations to improve the city’s economy.

The Economic Taskforce was published in 2002 and gained
cross-community support in the devolved Assembly but a
flagship proposal for Conway Mill’s overhaul has stalled.

Mr Adams said: “While some progress has been made in the
implementation of the report there have delays particularly
in respect of funding for flagship projects like Conway

“However, after this evening’s meeting I am very hopeful
that significant investment will be made into Conway Mill
in the near future.

“We also made progress in our discussions on a number of
other important project, including the Gaeltacht Quarter.”

The Mill is a landmark arts centre off the Falls Road.

Mr Adams was accompanied by a number of west Belfast public
representatives and community workers.

“Our discussions with the Minister about the introduction
of an Irish Language Act were also productive,” he added.

“Sinn Féin has consistently raised this issue with the
British government and at St Andrews (power-sharing talks)
the British government committed itself to introduce an
Irish Language Act.


Hungary: Police Fire On Protesters During McAleese Visit

23/10/2006 - 16:41:40

Police have fired rubber bullets at anti-government
protesters today, as Hungary commemorated the 50th
anniversary of its anti-Soviet uprising.

President Mary McAleese is in Hungary today for
commemorations to mark the 50th anniversary of the
country's 1956 uprising against communism.

Mrs McAleese will join other international dignitaries at a
ceremony to remember those who died when the nationwide
rebellion against Soviet rule was brutally suppressed.

An Associated Press speaking on the fracas today
photographer said one protester was hit in the head by a
rubber bullet and was bleeding, but still conscious.

Authorities also fired water cannon and tear gas to
disperse the crowds.

Protests on Kossuth Square outside parliament started on
September 17, when a recording was leaked revealing
socialist prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany admitting that
the government lied about the economy before its re-
election in April.

The protesters had vowed to stay until Gyurcsany was
dismissed, but police pushed them off the square after they
refused to submit to security checks.

However, authorities did not dismantle the dozens of tents
set up by the protesters, and were expected to allow the
demonstrators to return after today’s events.

As the commemoration events began, state news wire MTI said
police beat some of the protesters – including women and
elderly people – with rubber batons, leaving some with head

By late afternoon, protesters began gathering in different
spots near the centre of the city.

A few hundred protesters set up road blocks with rubbish
bins and threw rocks at the police dressed in riot gear,
who used large amounts of tear gas and several water cannon
to disperse them on Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Road, near St.
Stephen’s Basilica.

At the same time, Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Union, the main
centre-right opposition group, was holding their own 1956
commemoration just a few blocks away. According to MTI,
over 100,000 people were at the rally.


Hain: Northern Economy Not Sustainable

23/10/2006 - 18:31:55

The North's economy is not sustainable in its present form
according to the British secretary Peter Hain.

Mr Hain hinted today that big changes are on the way in the
north whether or not Sinn Féin and the DUP agree to power

He also said that if the current glitch between the DUP and
Sinn Féin becomes a crisis, the Stormont Assembly will

Speaking at the British Irish inter parliamentary body
meeting in Belfast, he said: “The economy is not
sustainable in its present form. It’s got far too small a
private sector, far too bureaucratic and bloated in its
administrative public sector.”

He also said that the educational systems needed reform:
“We’ve got enormously wasteful educational provision, with
segregation and separation imposing huge costs and waste of
tens of millions of pounds.”


Backing For Police And Powersharing Essential Says Dr Eames

Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor

Support for policing and powersharing were essential for
progress in the North, the Church of Ireland primate,
Archbishop Robin Eames, said yesterday after his first
formal meeting with Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams.

Dr Eames led a delegation of Church of Ireland bishops, all
with dioceses in the North, in what were described as the
first "public" talks with Mr Adams and senior Sinn Féin
politicians at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, yesterday.
Both men agreed the meeting was important and positive.

While Sinn Féin politicians have held private meetings with
Dr Eames and other Church of Ireland bishops, this was the
first one to be publicly acknowledged.

Dr Eames, at a press conference and in a statement
afterwards, said the meeting touched on many issues,
including policing, sectarianism, devolution, the
Disappeared, parades, education, collusion, equality and

He also referred to how the dispute over the pledge of
office for the prospective first minister and deputy first
minister - Dr Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness - had
stalled plans for a face-to-face Programme for Government
Committee meeting between Mr Adams and the DUP leader.

"We are anxious to see progress; we are anxious to see
movement. Above all else, at the end of the day we want to
see a Northern Ireland that is at peace with itself," said
Dr Eames.

He said while he was aware of the sensitivities of Sinn
Féin over policing, "we also put on the table the
sensitivities of those who want to see Sinn Féin and all
the parties supporting the police".

He did not directly say that now was the time for the DUP
to share power with Sinn Féin, although he made clear that
the twin issues of powersharing and policing should be
speedily resolved. "The bishops stated their belief that
political and social progress can only be achieved by full
and equal participation in the structures of democracy with
support for policing," said Dr Eames.

In a reference to republican violence, Dr Eames said at the
meeting he "stressed the hurt that is still harboured among
parishes that we deal with, and how we deal with memories
and how we look back to the things of the past in terms of
how we move forward".

At his separate press conference, Mr Adams indicated that
if the dispute over the pledge was not resolved by Friday
it could become a serious problem. Behind-the-scenes
efforts are continuing to try to find an accommodation on
the issue that would satisfy both the DUP and Sinn Féin.
"If there is a will it can be sorted out," he said.

Mr Adams said of the meeting: "There was a certain humour
and wry irony that - and I said this to the bishops - we
were able, as a Sinn Féin leadership, to welcome the Church
of Ireland bishops to Stormont. I thought that was part of
the changing times in which we live in."

© The Irish Times


Archbishop Looks Back On Some 'Amazing Happenings'

Patsy McGarry

Church of Ireland primate Archbishop Robin Eames has said
"the time has come for Sinn Féin to come on board where
policing is concerned" in Northern Ireland. He has also
warned that a drawn-out peace process is producing a public
indifference which is "dangerous for democracy".

Speaking to The Irish Times before yesterday's meeting with
Sinn Féin, he said he could understand republican
reservations about the RUC in the old days, but he felt the
PSNI was deserving of cross-community support.

He led a delegation of bishops in the Church of Ireland's
first formal meeting with Sinn Féin yesterday morning at
Stormont. Accompanying him were other northern bishops,
including Bishop Alan Harper of Connor diocese, Bishop
Michael Jackson of Clogher, Bishop Ken Good of Derry and
Raphoe, and Bishop Ken Clarke of Kilmore.

They met Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, Assembly members
Conor Murphy, Caitríona Ruane, Alex Maskey and MEP Mary Lou

The bishops said they addressed "an urgent need to make
political progress", which they believe can only be
achieved by full and equal participation in and commitment
to the structures of democracy.

They emphasised the fundamental link between political
stability and full civic participation by all. The Church
of Ireland has already met the Ulster Unionist Party,
Alliance Party, and SDLP representatives and is currently
seeking a meeting with the DUP.

Archbishop Eames, who is the most senior primate in the
world-wide Anglican Communion, retires at the end of this
year, bringing to an end a clerical career which has
spanned the entirety of the Troubles. Ordained priest in
1964, he became Bishop of Derry and Raphoe in 1975, and
Primate of All-Ireland in 1986.

Referring to the experience of being primate during the
Troubles, he said one of the privileges of being primate
through such a period was having an opportunity to see
"people at their best, when it came to courage and

It was to witness "honest human nature at its highest," he
said. It also meant witnessing what "dreadful violence does
to people, supporting them through bereavement, carrying
out various funerals, and trying to help them make sense of
it all".

That also entailed personal loneliness. "I have had my
faith challenged, though I never lost it, over questions of
good and evil."

The churches in Ireland had had "to develop a spontaneity
to react to events. They became a social ambulance service,
developing an instantaneous theology to find ways of
interpreting Christ to people who suffered dreadful loss,"
he said.

Yet, despite seeing so much of the dark side of human
nature during those years, there were also "some amazing
happenings which could only be the workings of the Holy

He recalled a woman who lost two family members to
terrorism, and who said to him, "I cannot tell you why or
how but I want to forgive them [ the killers], if only they
would help me understand, why".

He felt that "how people deal with their memories" will
determine so much of the future, for themselves personally
and for the wider community.

He did not believe a South African-style truth and
reconciliation commission would work in the North, but a
way had to be found to help people find closure.

Detection, where crimes were involved, was best. But it
would not be possible in all cases. Memory would probably
have to be dealt with person to person.

He agreed with those who said the unsung heroes of the
Troubles were "clergy, on the ground". For his own part, he
interrogated himself as to whether he could have done more.
"I am very conscious of what I have failed to do," he said.

He wondered whether he was "always as prophetic as I should
have been in spelling out the consequences of the attitudes
I came across". Or whether he had applied gospel
imperatives as answers to situations he came across. He was
also conscious "that, perhaps, none of us did all we

On the positive side there was the building of bridges at
church leadership level, whereby Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich,
Cardinal Cahal Daly, and Archbishop Seán Brady had become
"personal friends". They had "shared responsibilities and
worries, some of which never emerged in the public arena".

His own role in helping bring about the loyalist ceasefire
"brought some satisfaction", and he was "very, very
grateful" when loyalists also expressed regret. His role
then opened doors to government and politicians. He was
seen as a conduit to then Ulster Unionist leader Lord
Molyneaux, a Church of Ireland member, but he saw himself
as a conduit between the two communities.

He developed "a very good relationship with John Major, who
is still a friend, and Albert [ Reynolds]." Had Mr Major
remained on in office, "he would be seen today as the
British prime minister who did more for peace in Ireland
than any other. He was sincere and thorough, a tremendous

The archbishop believed relationships between the Irish
churches had come "a very long way", and he was himself "a
committed ecumenist".

"Co-operation and understanding has never been better."
There had been great progress on issues such as inter-
church marriage and baptism, but inter-Communion remained

He felt churches had to learn that society was moving on
and people were losing patience. But some were slow to
recognise society was changing "where the usefulness of
churches is concerned, and where they have to compete for
people's attention".

Meanwhile sectarianism was alive and well, particularly in
the North, which he described as a "frontier" society,
while the South was "quicker to embrace" concepts such as
Europe, for example. "In a church sense many in the North
see their southern colleagues as more liberal, more
accommodating of difference." Northerners would be "more

Also, "behind the smokescreen of the Troubles, secularism
came of age - very much in reaction to the Troubles". Many
had disengaged, with a-plague-on-all-your-houses attitude.
There had been similar disengagement from politics due to
the prolonged peace process, a disengagement which was
"very dangerous for democracy".

© The Irish Times


Irish Teens Down And Out In London

23/10/2006 - 15:46:00

The Federation of Irish Societies in Britain has warned
young people not to move to England without getting proper

Hundreds of teenagers are arriving in London every month
with no pre-arranged jobs and end up living rough according
to the federation.

Some of the young Irish turn to crime for money to make
ends meet, a meeting of the British-Irish inter-
Parliamentary Body in Belfast heard today.

Chairperson, Doctor Mary Tilki warned that young Irish
people contemplating moving to England and London in
particular should get advice before travelling.

“Many people come to the services of our affiliates with no
where to live and with just a few pounds in their pockets
or none at all.

I would strongly advise young people to get information
from Emigrant Advice before they go,” she said.


US Official Documents Say Up To Six Islamist Terror Groups In State

Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent

Up to six Islamist terrorist groups had units in the
Republic three years ago to deliver financial and logistic
support to other cells abroad, according to declassified
official US papers.

The documents, detailing contacts between the US embassy in
Dublin and Washington-based agencies, were released to RTÉ
under the US Freedom of Information Act.

Asked if any "foreign terrorist groups" had a presence in
Ireland, the embassy named the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Al-
Gama'at al-Islamiyah, the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, al-
Qaeda, and "possibly Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic

Asked to describe the presence, the embassy said there are
"operational support, logistical and financial cells
located in Ireland". Asked if there are "any ethnic or
religious communities in the country that are sympathetic
to these groups", the embassy said yes. Asked if there had
been any anti-American demonstrations in Ireland over the
previous 12 months, the embassy said yes, and estimated the
average size of a protest at between "30 to 300 people".

Meanwhile, the embassy also told the US state department
that there were "suspect non-governmental organisations in
the country that have a relationship" with some of the

In another briefing document prepared for the 2002 visit by
the then US health secretary Tommy Thompson, the then US
ambassador, Richard Egan, said the Government had "offered
crucial support" to the US in its role as president of the
UN Security Council following September 11th.

"Moreover, despite strong public opposition to any US-led
military action against Iraq - with or without UN Security
Council authorisation - the Government of Ireland voted on
November 8th, along with the other 14 UNSC members, to
support the strong US/UK-sponsored resolution". The
resolution passed on that date found Iraq to be "in
material breach of its obligations" and vowed "serious
consequences if Iraq did not fully and immediately disarm".

Fine Gael TD Billy Timmins said reports that Islamic
terrorist cells were operating in Ireland three years ago
were profoundly worrying.

"It is vital that the necessary funding be made available
to our own intelligence services to counter threats such as
these. I do not believe this has happened to date," said
the Wicklow TD.

© The Irish Times


Welcome To The Renaissance

Step Back in Time at the 32nd Annual Texas Renaissance

Mark Williams

It's a great weekend to grab up friends and family and head
off to nearby Plantersville for the 32nd Annual Texas
Renaissance Festival -- a Lone Star tradition and the one
of the oldest and largest fairs of its kind in the nation.
Take yourself back to a simpler time -- the 16th century,
to be precise -- for the festival, which is open from 9AM
’til dark every Saturday and Sunday through November 19,
brings to life the sights and sounds, events and food of
that time so very long ago.

From the time they popped up on the West Coast in the early
to mid 1960’s, renaissance festivals have maintained enough
growth in the latter part of the last century to officially
become a nationwide pursuit, turning innumerable homegrown
hobbies into cottage industries while emerging as a genuine
entertainment phenomenon. With dozens of renaissance
festivals across the country and more starting up each
year, the seasonal festival circuit employs a large number
of entertainers that have found their own definite niche.

Part of the popularity is that there is a little something
for everyone at the Texas Renaissance Festival: thrill
three time days to the most extreme of sports, the Royal
Joust; get lost in the beauty of the seven gardens of New
Market Village -- which also houses over 300 arts & crafts
and gift vendors and international cuisine at 60 food &
beverage shops. In the mood to marry? There’s two wedding
chapels on the festival grounds, along with 21 stages with
over 200 performances daily; meet over 3,000 costumed
characters daily and cap off your visit to the past with a
nightly display of Royal Fireworks.

Entertainment: Just as it was in days of old, live
entertainment is a must at the Texas Renaissance Festival.
See stage shows and exhibitions filled with levity and dark
ages wonderment like The Ded Bob Show, The Other Brothers,
The Sturdy Beggars, Hanlon Lee’s Action Theatre, Jousting
Knights and Steeds, The Washing Well Wenches and Birds of
Prey, made up of demonstrations from the handlers from
EarthQuest, a non-profit environmental education

By utilizing their experiences and skills, EarthQuest
founders Robby Sinkler and Steve Hoddy enhance awareness
and illustrate the true nature of animals with live
demonstrations of their natural abilities through trained
behavior in a controlled environment. Says Sinkler and
Hoddy: “We feel that our programs bring a sense of realism
to many people that have never had the opportunity to see
these animals in person and we hope it brings them a little
closer to nature.”

The Texas Renaissance Festival also offers something for
everyone, bringing its audiences the best in themed
entertainment on over twenty stages and two hundred daily
performances. See specialty performances like The Royal
Court, Robin Hood, The German Court, The Fantasy Realm, The
French Court, The English Court, The Queen's Men, The Joust
Maidens, The Italian Court, The Scottish Court, The Spanish
Court, The Joust Maidens, The Puppeteers, The Feast, The
Executioners, The Wenches, The Conquistadors, Commedia and
The Pirates.

Medieval Music: Showcasing traditional and innovative
Celtic music from Scotland, Ireland and Brittany, with a
mix of world percussion from Arabia, Africa, and America,
Houston-based Tartanic creates a fusion of contrasting
musical conventions which is nothing short of explosive. As
the jigs and reels of the past are spun into the musical
world of the future Tartanic runs, reels, and romps across
the stage taking live performance to heart and creating a
high-energy pulse at 120 beats per minute and beyond.
Tartanic fills a much needed niche in Celtic music, taking
tunes out of the session and into the sensational with
humor and theatrics. This is not just music; this is an
interactive spectacle -– it is a “Tartanic Experience”

Meantime, Cantiga is a musical ensemble whose name means
“song” in the language of Alfonso The Wise -- the 13th
century Spanish King of the Three Religions, whose royal
court was a haven for Christian, Muslim, and Jewish
musicians. It is in this tradition Cantiga is committed to
the inclusive spirit of improvisation which has flourished
among musicians in cultural crossroads throughout history.

Cantiga came together in the early 70's, when harpist
Martha Gay, fiddler Malcolm Smith and flute and recorder
specialist Bob Bielefeld played the Texas Renaissance
Festival after discovering a mutual interest in ancient
melodies and a flair for jamming. They were joined in the
80's by cellist Max Dyer, Conrado Garcia and fiddlers Mark
Caudill and Michelle Levy, who moved from Boston to join
the band following the passing of Malcolm Smith in 1996.

Bielefeld does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to
research, spending long hours in early music libraries at
Rice, Cornell, UT and Eastman while copying centuries-old
sheet music. Then it’s a slow process of figuring out how
to decipher” the indecipherable scratchings of musicians
who belong to an age long gone. Band members then add
pretty chords, a shameful modern imposition to an early
music purist, but necessary for a folk group. Check out
Cantiga at the Texas Renaissance Festival and discover
their recordings at

Cast In Bronze shows off the haunting beauty of the
carillon -- a medieval tower structure that was used to
hold a collection of musical bells, which are suspended in
a immobile manner and the clappers are connected to a
mechanical keyboard played with fists and feet. Expert
playing requires musical dexterity, strength and endurance,
an art form that is rarely seen and slowly but surely
disappearing from the planet. Today, many carillons have
fallen into disrepair or are simply no longer played
because of lack of funding or interest.

At the Texas Renaissance Festival, the carillon is played
by a silent and masked “spirit” that appears only to
breathe life into the instrument for the performance. A
one-man show, Cast In Bronze has performed for the late
Pope John Paul II and at presidential inaugurations, Walt
Disney World’s Epcot Center in Orlando, at other
renaissance festivals around the nation and on NBC’s “Today

Meantime, the musical duo known as E Muzeki, native Texans
Mark Varelas and Jenny O'Connor, both first played music
together in fall of 1999 as founders of a Greek band; a
shared passion for exotic sounding music carried them
beyond Greek music both in genre and instrumentation to
their world music project, E Muzeki. Expanding upon his
musical skills, Varelas has added the various sounds of
Flamenco guitar, Irish whistle and sitar to his
accomplishments on the Greek bouzouki and steel string
guitar. O’Connor plays Celtic fiddle, steel string guitar,
Gypsy violin and sitar.

Drawing from Gypsy, Greek, Spanish and Celtic traditions
while not being bound by them, the group has developed a
unique and captivating style. Whether playing actual folk
repertoire, or one of their original compositions, E Muzeki
brings fresh emotion to ancient musical tradition, drawing
listeners of all ages and from every walk of life.

E Muzeki recorded their debut CD, "Mavra Matia," in 2003.
The album was met with praise and quickly sold out of its
first printing. The duo’s second CD, "Sindh," was released
in 2005. In addition to unique and interesting arrangements
of traditional repertoire, original material makes up about
one third of the new album.

Gardens: Take a few moments for yourself -- or with that
special someone -- and enjoy nature with the seven garden
located on the festival grounds. There’s the Fons Florida
Aeterna Water Garden -- a 2200 square foot garden
constructed with Venetian architecture for a serene

In tribute to the War of the Roses, there’s a 2800 square
foot rose garden much like the one commissioned by King
Henry VIII. White columns and Italian Cypress trees
surround The Roman Bascilica Roman Garden -- originally
erected by the Romans as a temple to Aphrodite. “A
wonderful place to dream” can be found in Titania’s Bower
English Garden -- a 4500 square foot English garden.

Meantime, The Magic Garden Fantasy Garden features six
sanctuaries for rest and revitalization. Each sanctuary’s
theme is represented by its flora: bromeliads for health,
roses for romance, orchids for beauty, azaleas for
happiness, freshly cut flowers for wealth, and the vine
goddess for wisdom.

Shopping in the Middle Ages: Back in ye days of olde, the
town village served as man’s first shopping mall. Things
haven’t changed that much: Dad still has his eye on that
new weapon while Mom just has to have a new washboard. But
you’re more likely to find something a little more fun and
unique at the shoppes inside the Texas Renaissance
Festival. Vendors include Agate Wind Chimes, Almond Shoppe,
Angel Sword, Artcarve, Ashley Photographers, Austin Fine
Arts, Authentic Wardrobe, Baubles & Bangles, Beowulf, Big
Time Jewelry, Bittersweet Armory, Boss Wench, Fortune
Telling & Charms, The Frock Shoppe, H & H Collectibles,
Done With Mirrors, Gaelyn Bram Jewelry, Nottingham Wood
Art, Red Castle Leather Works, Blue Planet, La Perfume
Parlour, Ladies in Braiding, Chain Mail Designs, The Gem
Cutter, Hearts Delight Clothiers, Mystic Stones, Nagle
Forge & Foundry, Gilligan’s Island, Penny’s Magic Garden,
Glass Mountain Studios, McCoy's Armory, Greenman Games,
Guttenberg Press, Hats By Rebecca, Gyldanscript, Gypsy
Jewelry, Copper Cottage, Crowning Glory, Crystal Palace,
Cymbala, Lion’s Den, Rose & Crown Pottery, Sacred Earth
Clay Works, Jiva Silk Originals, Pottery by Mark Jaramillo
and Morrisette Pottery.

Shoppes such as Mariposa offers art from around the world
and “treasures from distinct corners of the globe” while
House Morningstar deals in historical clothing and
accessories, pewter ware and leather goods. Arkansas’
Hollow Earth Sword Works gets into the spirit of the Texas
Renaissance Festival by offering up the finest wooden
swords in the world. “We have reinvented the wooden sword,”
says craftsman Steven Archote, “blending pure function and
sleek styling to produce a superior practice sword that is
beautiful and balanced, yet can withstand the rigors of
serious sparring.”

Hollow Earth also makes the finest -- and only -- authentic
fully-functioning all-wood crossbow with lever-trigger and
hand wrought bowstring. For wearing your sword at the
ready, Archote offers a full line of leather belts, sword
frogs, back slings, baldrics and bracers. “We believe that
our years of research and test-fighting, and our fanatical
attention to quality and design, have prepared us to build
the finest wooden swords in the world.”

Are you a Frodo wannabe? Want to look like one of the
knights of King Arthur’s Round Table? Or you’re really
serious about the ongoing game of Dungeons N’ Dragons
happening in your rumpus room? Whatever the case may be,
check out Lord Entropy’s Armour & Leather, a Houston-based
enterprise that can take you back in time in a costume that
can be custom made to your specifications -- including
“fetish ware.” Go by Lord Entropy’s Armour & Leather at the
Texas Renaissance Festival or visit their location at 15534
West Hardy. 1-800-895-6931.

Penny’s Magic Garden soothes the body and soul with items
like bath teas, scented candles, dream pillows, perfume
oils, massage oils, custom bags and baskets, honey and
agave sticks, incense and ear candling kits. Call 281-356-
6661 for more information on products and services.

Other unique merchants featured at the Texas Renaissance
Festival include Bamboo Friends, Dragon Studios, Heirloom
Jewelry, Medieval Metal, Elegant Edibles, Excalibur
Leather, The Enchanted Cottage, Authentic Wardrobe, The
Royal Fan Shoppe, Fellowship Foundry, Old World Family
Names, Big Time Jewelry, Caricatures by Sir Harry,
Legendary Candles, Lost Island Trading, Bald Mountain
Leather & Moccasins and Ballena Bay Pewter: one of the
earth’s earliest metals, pewter has been worked by the
ancient Greeks, Romans and Asians; the English restored the
dignity of pewter and incorporated it into their daily
lives during the days of the Renaissance.

Located in Tucson, Ballena Bay Pewter uses the highest of
grades available in the marketplace today: 92 percent tin,
6 percent antimony and two percent copper. Ballena Bay
Pewter uses all the traditional methods for creating pewter
-- including hand casting, hand spinning, raising and
plannishing. During the Texas Renaissance Festival, Ballena
Bay Pewter is displaying dozens of pewter products of all
different sizes, shapes and genres.

Want to look like a fetching maiden all year long? When
Teri Evans established Unicorn Clothing in 1973, selling
her original clothing at street fairs and craft shows, a
Renaissance revival was underway and with it a renewed
interest in "the look": peasant-style blouses, full-layered
skirts and form fitting bodices.

The Medieval Clothing Guild was powerful and prominent in
the world of commerce opened by Marco Polo, Magellan and
Columbus whose explorations exposed Europe to the cultures
and treasures of far-off places. The colorful, intricately
trimmed garments attest to the craftsmanship of the
spinners, weavers, dyers and lace makers of the time.
Teri's original designs are rooted in these fashion
traditions. Check out the look at

Elsewhere, The Village Alchemist offers up heirloom quality
artwork created with porcelain, used for centuries in fine
chinaware. All of the colors in the artwork are made by
adding stains and minerals, coloring the clay body itself,
a style made popular by Wedgwood. Miniature paintings,
painted with solid colored porcelain sometimes using over
twenty different colored clays. Each piece is high fired
making the colors in the pieces permanent. With good care,
they have the ability to last for centuries if not longer.

Food & Drink: Slay your appetite at The Texas Renaissance
Festival, which, through the years, has become know the
world over for the quality and variety of its culinary
delights. Feeling famished? Munch on a giant fire roasted
turkey leg or a scrumptious Scottish egg, Steak-on-a-Stake,
spicy fajita tacos, tasty empanadas, handmade fudge &
pastries and ripe and juicy fruit fresh from the King’s
Orchards. Whether it be called grog, mead or ale, the Texas
Renaissance Festival’s 14 pubs offer a selection of
domestic and imported beer, along with fine wines and
frozen margaritas.

Theme Weekends: Roman Bacchanal, held on October 21 and 22,
is described as “the ultimate toga party,” while All
Hallows Eve, happening on October 28 and 29, is a time for
ghosts and goblins celebrate the scariest of holidays with
a costume contest and prizes.

Find yourself transported to Scotland during the Highland
Fling -- a wild weekend of “dancing, singing and drinking”
happening November 4 and 5; Next up is a celebration of
Spain and the discovery of the New World during Glorias de
Espana on November 11 and 12. Finally, the holiday season
is ushered in with plenty of “16th century grandeur” -- and
a visit from a certain jolly someone -- during Celtic
Christmas on November 18 and 19.

Games & Rides: There’s plenty of medieval fun for even the
littlest peasant at the Texas Renaissance Festival, with a
variety of games and wonders with human-powered rides and
authentic games of skill. Among the fun: a maze, archery
and axe throwing demonstrations, candle making, carriage
rides, a petting zoo, elephant and camel rides, carousels
and swings, Jacob’s Ladder, The Crystal Mine, pony rides,
sand art, star throwing demonstrations, ring toss and
working with wax -- just to name a few. Rides and games are
separate from the admission price, with most priced between
$2 to $5 a person.

School Days: History comes alive with an exciting new event
for interactive learning at the Texas Renaissance Festival.
School Days allows students to step back in time to see up
close the explosive rebirth of culture, art, science and
literature of the Renaissance Period. Hundreds of costumed
characters lead you into laughter and learning as all of
Europe pays homage to Queen Katherine on her birthday.
Students will meet the kings and queens of three countries,
William Shakespeare and Spanish conquistadors.

Students also get to see jousting and period dances with
King Henry VIII and his queen while learning the history of
arms and armor. Artists and actors dressed in period
costumes illustrate the technological advances and
discoveries of the renaissance age through demonstrations
in pottery, glass blowing, blacksmithing, armor making, and
other diverse arts and trades of this amazing period. Home
schoolers welcome. Reservations required. For more
information on School Days, call festival education
coordinator Lorraine Brown at 1-800-458-3435.

Tickets: $21 for adults at the gate, $10 for children ages
5 through 12 and can also be found at a nearby location of
Woodforest National Bank. Tickets to the King’s Feast and
various wine & beer tasting events are available from The
Merchant Prince at 1-800-224-0761.

Directions: Take Highway 105 West approximately 20 miles to
Plantersville; then turn left onto FM 1774 and go 6 miles
to the Festival entrance. Free parking, $5 camping fee.

send your comments to:


Kerry Festival To Show Over 100 Films

Anne Lucey

More than 100 films from 17 countries will be screened at
this year's Kerry Film Festival. At the launch of the
seventh annual Samhlaíocht Kerry Film Festival yesterday at
the Great Blasket Centre in Dún Chaoin, west Kerry,
Minister for Arts, John O'Donoghue said film production was
a major player in the economy.

"Apart from creative reasons, the key advantage of locating
a production in Ireland has been Section 481," Mr
O'Donoghue said.

He said 2006 was a record year, with some 17 film and TV
productions underway. This included the TV drama series The
Tudors, with Golden Globe winner Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as
Henry VIII, currently shooting in Ardmore Studios and in

That production had a total budget of €29 million, around
€19 million of which would be spent in the Republic, Mr
O'Donoghue outlined.

"Section 481's availability to television is now a key
competitive advantage for Ireland," he said.

However, partly as a result of US film incentives to keep
production at home, there were no large budget features
here this year. He warned that complacency could not be
allowed to set in in a climate of growing global
competition to secure the big productions.

Attractive film breaks, production incentives, a good
talent pool and studio complexes to meet the needs of high-
budget productions were now being offered by many countries
around the world, including the US.

"Ireland now holds its own due to our talent pool and
incentives package," he said.

The week-long festival is taking place around the county
and is in association with Ardmore Studios and supported by
RTÉ's Lyric FM. As well as international short films, it
also features masterclasses in film-making.

A top prize of €10,000 will be awarded to the best
director. There are also prizes for best animation, best
experimental, best documentary and best Irish short - to be
judged by an international panel.

Other events include the screening of the animated classic
The Iron Giant and this year's music documentary Fleetwood
Mac - Rumours will be introduced by its director, David
Heffernan, on Friday next. An audience choice award is
being introduced by John Moore, director of The Omen 666.

A panel discussion at the Institute of Technology Tralee
along with two documentary shorts will focus on planning -
one of the most heated issues in the county - and
development in the Republic and the HSE South are
supporting a screening of Calendar Girls for active retired
groups around the county.

The masterclass programme, sponsored by Fás Screen Training
Ireland, includes a production workshop with Hollywood
producer Ned Dowd, who recently worked on Mel Gibson's
Mayan epic, Apocalypto.

Further details about the festival can be located at

© The Irish Times

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