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Need a haircut? Sorry, everyone is 'en vacances'

BRUSSELS — "I’m told that in Brussels, the word 'August' doesn’t exist — the summer months here are June, July, Les Vacances. So it’s nice to see all of you today." That’s how new NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen began his first meeting with journalists earlier this month, either feigning surprise or truly not expecting to see several dozen reporters present in the NATO auditorium.

Kennedy's death: Ireland mourns a "true friend"

DUBLIN — Nowhere outside the United States is the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy being mourned as much as in Ireland, the country from where his ancestors emigrated during the potato famine of the 19th century and to which he helped bring peace in recent years.

"Rip-off Ireland" gets cheaper

DUBLIN — Long classified as one of the more expensive countries in the world, Ireland is steadily becoming a cheaper place to live and visit.

Animal dung reveals secrets of the past

BALLYVAUGHAN, Ireland — The Burren in County Clare in the west of Ireland has long delighted tourists and intrigued scientists and botanists.

What do Seamus Heaney and The Edge have in common?

DUBLIN — The government in Ireland is so unpopular that the electors would likely reject any referendum proposal it makes just to register a protest. That is why poets, rock stars and sports personalities have taken upon themselves the role of persuading people to vote in favor of the Lisbon Treaty in a second referendum on Oct. 2.

Hacking away at the Celtic Tiger

DUBLIN — The Celtic Tiger is dead. Now its cubs are facing death by a thousand cuts, or "snips," to use the colloquial lexicon of post-boom Ireland. Faced with a budget deficit of $8.5 billion this year, the government set up a board to establish where sweeping public spending cuts could be made. Known colloquially as An Bord Snip ("an bord" is Irish for "the board") it has, after months of deliberation, identified where the scissors should be wielded.

Texan backpackers turned away by Irish immigration

DUBLIN — Tourism Ireland's slogan, “Go where Ireland takes you,” encourages overseas visitors to explore the country. But for three young Texans beginning a backpacking holiday, the place where Ireland took them on arrival at the Dublin airport Friday, July 3, was the departure lounge and an expensive return flight to the United States.

In the shadow of the walls

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Early on a Sunday evening a group of Catholic teenagers huddle in the corner of an empty construction site getting drunk. Nearby, four amateur pyromaniacs set fire to an old football jersey on a stone that bares the spray-painted message: “COPS NOT WELCOM.”

Read the walls for signs of peace

BELFAST — The British Army map of Belfast shows green for Catholic enclaves, orange for Protestant areas and white for mixed districts. But for many years you didn’t need this map when driving around the city to know the affiliation of ghetto areas you were passing through. Gabled walls on working-class houses showed murals depicting armed paramilitary figures. These marked out the tribal territories. Pavements edged in red, white and blue identified loyalist Protestant streets. Those in green, white and orange signified nationalist Catholic areas.

I will arise and go now ... to a summer school

DUBLIN — The late U.S. senator Eugene McCarthy liked to tell the story of his first visit to an Irish summer school. It was held in Sligo and dedicated to the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats. Guessing that the literary event would involve some drinking and reciting in Sligo bars, McCarthy, who was not a Yeats scholar, figured out how to make an impression.
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