Thursday, January 13, 2005

26 is not their favourite number

If the Northern Ireland peace process could be advanced based simply on common agreement on insults, we should be a little further along than we are. Because in a posting about a month ago, we noted how a group of Glasgow Rangers fans had successfully uncorked the "Free State" epithet in a row with security guards at Dublin Airport.

For the benefit of our vast US readership, we should note that in the Irish context, the term Free State refers to the name of the 26 county "southern" state formed by Partition in 1922, and which went by that name until either 1937 or 1949 (we could go into explaining this ambiguity, but you don't have enough time). Anyway, it's generally used to imply some kind of illegitimacy or transitory status of the state currently known as the Republic of Ireland.

So, in a pleasing example of convergence, a new example of the usage is provided by the other extreme -- the wife of a prominent Dublin Sinn Fein politician. The Irish Times explains. There was a late night fracas outside the Abbey Hotel in which 3 Shinners got into an argument with the police:

Garda Gareth Kane said that he had seen Niamh NĂ­ Dalaigh [wife of Sinn Fein TD] at the scene. "She called me a 'f****** scumbag' and 'Free State bastard'." She had been arrested after opening the [detention] van doors.

With two instances of this clearly enough to form a trend, we resolve now to keep an eye out for counterpart instances of nationalists referring to Northern Irish security personnel as "Six County bastards." We promise to report back when we find an example.

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