HI Richard, delightful story there :-) reminds me of the day we found a tiny kitten almost hairless she was so small, in the gutter, brought her home and gave her a dose of worm medicine and I swear she coughed up a ball of worms bigger than she was! And yes we all survived the experience ...! Although I think the solution of salt beef is far more imaginary...
As far as I know there is only one newt in Ireland and Britain, the smooth newt, this given species I think is a spurious variation in its name: http://taxonomicon.taxonomy.nl/TaxonName.aspx?id=1397957&tree=0.1
And its neither rare nor special. Which makes me laugh, people are always unobservant when they don't want to see. Especially when it comes to reptiles. I cant find the alp-luachra version of its name, but it could be a local variation of the common form earc luachra (literally rushes lizard). The alp would probably be for 'gulp' which all lizards and frogs tend to do as they breathe. However, it also extends to be 'greedy', which could be partly responsible for this little tale.
With all the tales of 'worms' being swallowed by various Irish people, I suspect its not really surprising to find the poor newt getting a bad rap too. Who knows but the 'worm' of myth was always considered a newt too, hard to know for sure, but would make sense.
It certainly is possible to get a fluke from just walking or lying on grass - sheep farmers here in particular have learnt not to walk around barefoot - the story of men with flukes in their livers, and then surgeons trying desperately to cut open brains to get them out - its enough to get it through to even us kids not to go barefoot in such places. But in this case, I'm not sure we need to assume a real fluke - the story is just so gorgeous on its own and within the wider Irish context. And people's beliefs can be odd at times. My daughter was doing volunteer work in Fiji once, and she was one day sitting at a computer when a lovely gecko walked down the wall in front of her. She put out her hand and let the gecko move onto it - and the whole office of Fijians erupted in cries of horror, apparently they just believe bad things of harmless geckos. But then the next day much the same scene happened only this time it was a big spider - she leapt out of her chair with a great scream - and the whole office cracked up laughing at her.
Mind you I've also seen some reptiles cough up a stomach-full of worms too. Not pleasant.
But its very much a learnt reaction. Once we had a park with rare native grasses in it, and an old tram for the kids to play in. Well the parents were up in arms and called a meeting to get the council to put in some nice (horrid) foreign grass - because there might be spiders in the grass for their kids! One of our naturalists turned up at the meeting and gave them a talk about native grasses and spiders and all such insects, only to be greeted with frowns from the adults. Not getting through there. Then he said, Well I'm going for a walk after the meeting to look for things, does anyone want to come? And all the kids in the audience leapt to their feet with hands in the air - we won that one. But its sad to think that those kids will grow up learning their parents attitudes in the end.