I took a "hop on, hop off" tour around the town, thinking that it was a way to get oriented. However, unlike the Dublin bus tour, this had little to offer. Since Kilkenny is small, the tour was short; The bus only had one stop, so the "hop on" aspect was rendered moot; And almost all of the information imparted by the guide can be found in the Let's Go! Ireland book.
Here's Kilkenny castle, and the garden, which probably looks a lot nicer at some other part of the year.
Some of Kilkenny's main streets, thoroughly laced with pubs.
The old courthouse, and the gaol underneath.
The Kilkenny design centre. Were it a weekday, there would be craftsfolk displaying their skills. As it was, the main shop was open, and I have to admit that the items sold were definately a cut about the usual tourist-targeted products. For a few moments I actually considered buying an interesting sweater, but I realized that I already had enough warm clothes, and I didn't know the shirt sizes of anyone that I could think of to give it to.
This alley is known as "Butter Slip".
I have added a page of general notes and observations for U.S. travellers visiting the U.K. and Ireland.
One store that was open was a discount bookstore; I took an opportunity to pick up some cheap but classic reading material, including Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, and the plays of Oscar Wilde. There is a quote from Lady Windimere's Fan which I find much to empathize with: "As a wicked man, I am a complete failure."
I also bought the unauthorized biography of Gerry Adams, because after listening to him speak the other day, I feel a need to figure him out.
A quick summary of what's I've learned so far: The apparent contradictions in his speech are a result of him having to walk a very fine line between alienating his own people and alienating the governments that he is negotiating with. He seems to be a reasonable man who is leading some of the world's most stubborn and unreasonable people, folks who believe that they only way that they are ever going to get what they want is by force of arms. It is almost certain that he is responsible for a number of deaths; At the same time, he has managed to convince, or rather, demonstrate to his own people that a politicial, rather than a military solution can actually achieve their goals. The IRA has in the past split into independent factions, because some of them believed in a political solution and some only believed in force. One of Gerry's jobs is to prevent such a split, otherwise negotiation becomes extremely difficult. He also has to avoid losing his popular support, or worse: getting a bullet in the back.
Adams is no different than most politicians in this sense: politicians generally aren't chosen because they are the smartest, wisest, or most honorable people in the world. They are chosen because the represent a common ground between opposing factions, a least common denominator that most people can agree on. Reagan, Bush, and Clinton are all examples of people who gained broad support because they represented the intersection of some fairly antagonistic interest groups. For example, the Republican party is an unnatural alliance between the religious right, big business, and some types of civil libertarians. It is "unnatural" because each of these sub-groups has an agenda which is significantly different than the others, yet when faced with a possible victory from the "other side", they can agree to overlook some of their differences, and settle on a leader who they believe will be beneficial to all of their intertests. A similar statement can be made about the Democrats.
In the case of Gerry Adams, the groups that he deals with are so diametrically
opposed that it would be very difficult to engage in any kind of meaningful
conversation, let alone come to an agreement. However, Adams is a pretty
smart fellow, and has the virtue of never walking away from a negotiation,
even with his direst enemy. Some of what he says may be lies ("I have
never been a member of the IRA"), but if so they seem to be neccessary,
Machavellian lies. For example, I suspect that most people believe
that Adams has been, in fact, a terrorist, yet because there is no proof
of this, his statement to the contrary allows certain official persons
to claim that they have not, in fact, negotiated with terrorists.