(Irish) facts are sacred

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ROBIN Blake's review of Ciaran Deane's Guinness Book of Irish Facts & Feats ("Muhammed Ali is an Irishman", Sunday Review, 4 December) is misleading. Deane does not claim that Ali et al are Irish; he simply lists a large number of facts about Irel and, the Irish and people with Irish connections. It seems facts don't appeal to Mr Blake: references to the Archangel Gabriel in Grafton Street and "holding forth in bars" suggest stereotypes are more his thing, while even the English must be tiring of quips about the "Englishness" of the Republic of Ireland football team. As for "it's God's truth I'm telling youse", Fowler's Modern English Usage says "English novelists, rashly trying to represent Irish characters in their native idiom, almost always b etraytheir ignorance of its subtleties". The same is true, it seems, of some English book reviewers.

Meanwhile, says Peter Walker in Flat Earth, the Vietnamese ascribe the standoffishness of the English race to the weather in "their outlandish islands (sic) . . . the English, groping their way about, have never really seen anyone clearly". Presumably MrWalker failed to spot the three flaws in this theory: the Scottish, Welsh and Irish.

Brendan O'Brien Ballinteer, Dublin