Irish overcome St Patrick’s Day provocations
Irish overcome St Patrick’s Day provocations

Mayor of London Boris Johnson and US sports wear manufacturer Nike have both been forced to apologise to the Irish community after making insults related to St Patrick’s Day.

Johnson’s insinuated in a magazine interview that a gala St Patrick Day’s dinner was funded by ratepayers and used to promote Sinn Féin.

“I’ll tell you what makes me angry - lefty crap,” he said in the interview for New Statesman magazine, “ spending 20,000 pounds on a dinner at the Dorchester for Sinn Féin!”

But Johnson cancelled the Annual St Patrick’s Day dinner in 2009 and has never attended a St Patrick’s Day event since.

The annual St Patrick’s Day event he referred to is a self-financing community event attended by a wide range of Irish actors, politicians from many parties, community figures and celebrities, including Bob Geldof, the Irish Ambassador, Dermot O’Leary, Richard Corrigan, and Pauline McLynn. It did not cost the taxpayer anything and it was not a Sinn Féin event.

Commentator Christine Quigley said the Mayor had “singled out an annual celebration of the large and important Irish community in London” due to the “same old story -- bigotry based on ignorance”.

The comments were also pointed to by former mayor Ken Livingstone, who said Mr Johnson had no interest in the city’s Irish community.

In a letter, Mr Johnson, who is competing with Livingstone for re-election as London Mayor, apologised. But the issue of Mr Johnson’s relationship with London’s Irish emerged again this week as it emerged that the mayor, yet again, is planning to snub the annual St Patrick Day’s parade to Trafalgar Square.

In Downing Street, British prime minister David Cameron had joked with Taoiseach Enda Kenny about Mr Johnson’s part in the upcoming celebrations.

“I am sure that there will be a good show put on in London this year. I can’t promise that Boris Johnson will dye his hair green, but, you never know, he might do, it’s election year,” Mr Cameron chuckled.


Meanwhile, the Nike corporation has apologised for a controversy that arose over its decision to reveal its new “Black and Tan” runner to coincide with St Patrick’s Day.

The name may have referred to the mixed-beer drink, consisting of a half pint of stout topping a half pint of ale or lager. An image of the drink is pictured on the inside of the shoe.

For most people, however, the name is that of the murderous British paramilitary unit that massacred Irish civilians in the 1920s.

Irish Americans criticised Nike for being ‘oblivious’ to Irish history. Ciaran Staunton, president of the U.S.-based Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, asked: ‘Is there no one at Nike able to Google Black and Tan?’

Eventually, Nike apologised for the name.

A spokesman said: “It is not the official name of the shoe. It has been unofficially named by some using the phrase and we recognise it can be viewed as inappropriate and insensitive. We apologise and no offence was intended.”

This is not the first time a company has failed to appreciate the global implications of a new product name. Ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s released a “Black and Tan” ice cream flavour six years ago, also referring to the drink. While the product was only available in the United States, Ben & Jerry’s apologised.

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