IN the early evening sunshine, Martin McGuinness arrives -- white shirtsleeves, red necktie -- at the Ringsend and Irishtown Community Centre in the south inner city of Dublin.
It is almost 4.30pm on Thursday, the day after the night before, when Miriam O'Callaghan had asked how he squared with his God his involvement in the murder of so many.
McGuinness is surrounded by journalists to the point that Thorncastle Street is blocked to two-way traffic. He is in presidential mode. So he will not rise to the questions about Miriam.
He will leave it, instead, to the people of Ireland to decide, he says, by which he means the people of the Republic. But the media, he implies, they do not get it; the people, he implies, they will get it.
Later, we find that just 100 of the 700,000 who saw the Prime Time debate went on to complain to RTE, many of them prompted by the relentless propaganda machine that is Sinn Fein.
The reporters persist, desperate for a soundbite, before one intervenes to take us back to another moment of the week, the confrontation of Martin McGuinness by David Kelly, whose father was killed in a shootout in Derrada Wood in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, in December, 1983.
The Kelly family had studied the coroner's report; they were convinced it was a bullet from the Provisional IRA that had taken the life of Patrick Kelly, a Private in the Irish Army.
The reporter, tall, blonde, in her 20s, poses a convoluted question, the import of which gives McGuinness an out which he gladly accepts, that Pte Kelly had really been killed by a bullet from his own side. The reporter is from TG4. "I have heard that . . . ," says McGuinness.
He is greeted by, maybe, 10 locals who welcome him warmly. There are several men and many children among them, a few in Ireland football jerseys. "Up the IRA!" shouts a young whippersnapper on a Raleigh Chopper bike as McGuinness makes his way inside. Nobody bats an eyelid.
The occasion is purely photocall, an opportunity to garner publicity, as all candidates in an election may contrive. By and large, it is an exercise otherwise meaningless, notwithstanding the good work which can take place at a centre like this.
Out back there is an all-weather football pitch. McGuinness takes a soft, well-used ball in his hands. The cameras click. I watch him now. He is lean, fit for man of 61. His buttocks are tightly clenched. It is clear that he has played Gaelic football before. He takes the ball in hand, solos, hops it. A good player in his day, I conclude, not a great one: clubman, not county.
Later at the Mansion House, at a rally of true believers and the converted, McGuinness draws out a little of his background: the middle of three brothers, the other two both footballers, one at inter-county level for Derry, the other for Derry City and Finn Harps.
Here he speaks in a tone I have not heard before, less clipped, more gentle, his Bogside accent more pronounced. It is impossible not to be but engaged. His mother, from Donegal, crossed the Border to work in the shirt factories. In my mind's ear I hear John Hume . . . the town he loves so well.
In a moment such as this we all can be drawn into our background. Mine is a beep, beep, beep time signal on Radio 1: it is 8pm, my mother is getting my father out to work on the bog, food in a green canvas bag.
The voice of Charles Mitchell comes on to give an account of the latest IRA atrocity: a part-time UDR man murdered in cold blood at an isolated farm up a laneway somewhere; or a bombing, indiscriminate, which claims the life of a child or a woman or a random passer-by.
Before the Mansion House, they took Martin McGuinness to the Spellman Centre. "In our journey through life we will face our struggle together," a plaque on the wall reads. It is a drugs rehabilitation centre in Ringsend.
Again, he is warmly welcomed. The visit, it feels, is more to do with his efforts to advance Sinn Fein than, necessarily, the presidential election. "Gerry Adams," a woman from the centre says, "he has always honoured his promises to us." She says it twice. Click, click, click.
Here McGuinness elaborates a little on the nature of what would be his presidency. "I will not be a dumb President," he says, "I will be an outspoken President."
It is time to listen. Fine Gael will be in power for the next few years, he tells those present, mostly, it seems, supporters of Sinn Fein: "I will talk to Enda Kenny," he says, "I will tell him I don't think they should be cutting" the funding of centres such as this.
The pretence, then, is that Sinn Fein in the Aras would seek to intervene, to influence the policies of government. For their supporters, it is an alluring prospect; for the rest of us, it is hogwash.
Back at the Mansion House, there is a harpist with flaming red hair and an uilleann piper who would stir the dead.
We are in the Round Room, built in 1821 for the visit of King George IV, but the venue of choice for historic events, such as the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence.
As we await outside, I meet Nell McCafferty, the journalist, civil rights campaigner and feminist. Born in Derry, she also spent her early years on the Bogside. We have a cigarette.
McCafferty is amazed that no journalist has yet asked the question which, she says, McGuinness cannot deny: "Did you ever sanction an operation which resulted in the death of people?"
She refers to her interview of McGuinness, published in The Irish Times in 1972, in which he admits to a bombing which caused a man to lose a foot. "The man was a cyclist . . . ," she says.
McCafferty refers to the review of cold cases up North, the Historical Enquiries Team, which is to investigate 3,268 unsolved murders. This, she supposes, is why McGuinness will not own up to his bloody past.
Were he to win this election, then, we might face the prospect of the President of Ireland coming to the attention of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Inside, Bobby Ballagh takes to the stage. "I am Robert Ballagh," he says, "I am an artist." In fact, Ballagh is one of the country's finest artists, to be greatly admired, if you can afford his work.
He is also one of the few who opposed amendments to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution which, by referendum in December 1999, was passed by almost 95 per cent of the people of the Republic.
Quickly we come to a recurring theme on the night, unscripted when this event was organised several months ago.
Ballagh declares himself to be "appalled and dismayed" by the media; he thought the "boil would be lanced quickly", but no, "tragically" this was not to be, the "hysteria continued unabated".
Warming to the theme, he says that the media has, in fact, "damaged democracy", "a very worrying development", "outpourings of a Government-controlled media", "totalitarian State", "realms of political propaganda", "reduced this campaign to a farce", "elaborate sideshow, a distraction".
"Most people," he declares, were "unconcerned about Martin McGuinness's IRA past", but the media remains "obsessed with what Martin McGuinness did or didn't do decades ago". He would, he says -- pausing for effect -- use the word "shame" about the media of the Republic.
The MC, Colm Meaney, warmed to his task: "shameful, malign coverage", "vindictive, narrow-minded campaign", "won't work", "backfire".
Others speakers, such as Peter Sheridan, the -- deep breath -- writer, theatre director, playwright, screenwriter, and film director, follow in similar vein. His mother was from Belfast. He is "annoyed and appalled" at the "treatment" McGuinness is receiving.
It had just become clear that Sinn Fein, and their supporters, had not expected this from the media of the Republic, that it would question in hard sentence the appropriateness of Martin McGuinness.
For a decade, they have toyed with a form of democracy up North, have marvelled at the essential compromise of its nature: now it is as though they feel entitled to download the entire uneasy mix down here.
They are baffled, in fact, by this rejection of the blind eye that would allow a man such as Martin McGuinness comfortable passage to Aras an Uachtarain.
It is not just artists, actors and playwrights who speak, but two sportsmen too, one from south Armagh, the other from Tipperary, who now plays hurling for Dublin.
Ryan O'Dwyer presents himself as somebody who had viewed Prime Time and had become so outraged by the hard sentence of Miriam O'Callaghan that, there and then, he dashed off an email to Gerry Adams. Adams had called him the following day, and here he is, in awe, he says, to share a platform with a man such as McGuinness, or "Martin" as he repeatedly refers to the candidate.
In Belfast last weekend, O'Dwyer had spoken to the "blanket men" who, he assures people, were "sad over what went on in the Troubles". He also played hurling in a memorial game for the hunger strikers of 1981.
Born in 1985 -- he is 25 -- it is safe to assume that Ryan O'Dwyer has little or no memory of that beep, beep, beep, of bated breath as we await the grave tones of Charles Mitchell.
He would have little or no memory, therefore, of fear moving on to horror, moving on to anger at what was being done, supposedly in our name, and for which Sinn Fein has never sought to reconcile with the people of the Republic.
The other sportsman, Jarlath Burns, a former footballer, now a school principal, spoke of how McGuinness, as the North's Education Minister, had made available £17m to turn his school into a shining beacon on the hill.
It might be, then, that an outspoken President McGuinness would also oppose education cuts from the Aras; but we should not dwell on that because it will not happen.
In full flow now, Burns declares McGuinness to be a "hero of the War of Independence", just as Michael Collins was, he says, in what, one assumes, was the real war of independence.
Brandishing an Irish passport and a credit union book, the point he intends to make is the outrage he feels that he and others like him could not vote in the election of the President of Ireland.
His credit union book put me in mind of the last time I had met John Hume, in a Dublin hotel, at an annual general meeting of the Irish League of Credit Unions, of which, when aged 27, Hume was the youngest ever president.
If it were to cut both ways, I idly wonder, and we could vote in elections in the North, just how big a majority would the SDLP have? Not for the first time it is apparent that partition is facilitating the Sinn Fein project.
Then, finally, comes Martin McGuinness, warm, friendly, moved by the purity of the reception he has received in a round room full of true believers and the converted.
His story engages. "I don't think I could have lived with myself," he says, "I would have been ashamed of myself if I had not joined the IRA." The majority, he says, did not join "because they were afraid." "I was afraid too."
He moves on to talk about the "massive impact" the arrival of the British army had on the people of Derry, on the Bogside. "People think it's a crime to fight back. It's not a crime to fight back. I am proud I fought back."
There the engagement comes to an unsatisfactory end.
I await his account of the last 30 years, his reasoning of the murder of part-time UDR men, the slaying of women, the blowing apart of children, the murder of gardai and an Army private, the failure of making Sunningdale work, and much more, what we might call, the pointlessness of it.
Instead, he slips into a prepared speech, a political speech, written in Dublin, the tone and cadence of which was distinctly not of the Bogside.
"Fine Gael and Labour cuts crush communities," he says at one stage, and you could imagine a college graduate tap that one out on an iPad.
Is this what it was all about then, Martin? Hamfisted politics.
Later he moves back to where he had been, his true voice: his father, he says, was "hugely religious", his mother "very religious". It was only now we could see why Miriam O'Callaghan's question had cut him to the quick.
To wind it up, he returns to his theme of reconciliation. Reconciliation without truth is like peace without justice. But there would be no truth, or none intended. But if you listened closely a kind of truth begins to emerge.
As President, he would have a decade of reconciliation. "I believe I can accelerate it," he says, this reconciliation. Behind me, Nell McCafferty tut-tuts. Why is she so disappointed? "Reconciliation," she says, "he didn't mention the British army, the UDR, the RUC."
The unintended truth may be this. After his confrontation with David Kelly, his being held to account by the media, he says of reconciliation: "I am more conscious than ever . . ."
It is as if it has just dawned on him, that before Sinn Fein can take a Great Leap Forward, it must first find a form of genuine reconciliation with the people of the Republic who will decide the outcome of this election.
THE mill of Irish politics may grind slowly but, when it does, it grinds very finely. For a time, it looked as though the daring raid by Martin McGuinness and Sinn Fein across the Border could reap real dividends. Slowly, and in some cases, very slowly, when it comes to the moral consequences of putting McGuinness into the Park, the penny has finally dropped.