[ Irish Names ][ Glossary ][ Contents ]


Last-modified: 3 Sep 98

Frequently Asked Questions on soc.culture.irish with answers. Send corrections, suggestions, additions, and other feedback to The FAQ maintainer.

Contents of Part 10

  1. Geography
  2. Irish Language
  3. Irish Politics
  4. NI Politics
  5. NI Paramilitaries
  6. Government
  7. Semi-State Bodies
  8. Taxation & Spending
  9. Other Bodies
  10. Sport
  11. Current Affairs
  12. NI Current Affairs
  13. Dead White Males
  14. Other Historical Terms
  15. Monuments
  16. Irish-America
  17. Myth and Folklore
  18. General Terms

This is an attempt to explain some of the terms that come up in soc.culture.irish.

1) Geography

Six Counties Another name for Northern Ireland
The North Another name for Northern Ireland
NI Another name for Northern Ireland
NoI North of Ireland: frequently preferred to "NI" by nationalists.
26 Counties Another name for the Republic of Ireland
The South Another name for the Republic of Ireland
The Republic Another name for the Republic of Ireland
ROI Another name for the Republic of Ireland

2) Irish Language

Irish a Gaelic language, closely related to Scots Gaelic
Gaeltacht The areas where Irish is spoken as a first language
Gaeilge The Irish for Irish Gaelic
RnaG Raidio na Gaeltachta, Irish language radio station
TnaG Teilifís na Gaeilge, Irish language TV station
Fáinne Pin worn by fluent Irish speakers
Currach a small boat made of a frame covered with waterproof material (Irish spelling "curach")
Curragh flat, boggy area; the Curragh is a plain in Co. Kildare, notable for its racecourse and the army barracks; also, an alternative spelling of Currach
Ogham ancient script arranged along an edge or (later) a line, usually carved onto wood or stone, mainly preserved on stone monuments

3) Irish Politics

Fianna Fáil Traditionally largest single party in Ireland; formed by De Valera at the end of the civil war; literally translated "soldiers of destiny" (from some words in the national anthem). Pronounced roughly "Fee-na FOIL". Often abbreviated "FF".
Fine Gael The "other" big civil war party and traditional enemy of Fianna Fáil. Pronounced roughly "Finn-nu GALE". Often abbreviated "FG".
Labour Party Like British counterpart an evolving socialist party in a post-socialist world
Progressive Democrats Originally an anti-Haughey splinter from Fianna Fáil; now their most likely partners in government; right-wing economically, liberal on social issues
PDs Abbreviation for Progressive Democrats
Democratic Left left-wing party with roots going back to "Official" Sinn Féin in the early seventies
Sinn Féin (Today) a party with close ties to the IRA that gets most of its support in Northern Ireland; literally translated "we ourselves". Pronounced roughly "Shin FEIGN".
32CSC "Thirty two County Sovereignty Committee"; Republican committee critical of GFA and associated peace process
Republican Sinn Féin Split from Sinn Féin in 1986 when latter voted to take up seats in the Dáil
Green Party like other parties of its kind in Europe, focuses mainly on environmental issues
Bunreacht na hÉireann the Irish Constitution; mostly written by de Valera in 1937; amended several times through referendum; articles two and three claim whole island and are therefore disliked by Unionists
CJH Charles J. Haughey; veteran FF politician, Taoiseach many times during the eighties; came back from disgrace being dismissed from cabinet after Arms Trial (built up grassroots support by doing the "rubber chicken" circuit while in exile); always controversial and ruthless in power; retired while going was good but got caught up in corruption scandal and tribunals later
CCOB Conor Cruise O'Brien; after career in Irish civil service, including spell at UN became Labour TD, later journalist and writer; famous for outspoken op-ed pieces in Saturday editions of Indo; joined UKUP and stood as a candidate in NI

4) NI Politics

UUP Ulster Unionist Party; traditionally the main Unionist party in Northern Ireland; sometimes known as the "Official" unionists
SDLP Social Democratic and Labour Party; main Catholic and nationalist party
DUP Democratic Unionist Party; Ian Paisley's party; usually tries to be more radical than the UUP
Sinn Féin See definition under Irish Politics above
Alliance A non-unionist, non-nationalist party
UKUP United Kingdom Unionist Party; mainly Robert McCartney
PUP,UDP Two small unionist parties with links to Loyalist terror groups
Women's Coalition New party that tries to bring NI women's views to politics
Orange Order Organisation for Protestant men; stages marches; c.f. AOH
NICRA Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association; formed in 1967; later overtaken by sectarian violence and the start of the troubles

5) NI Paramilitaries

IRA Irish Republican Army; also known as the Provisionals or the Provos; main republican terrorist group
Army Council IRA body that (apparently) makes policy and can only be overruled by an Army Convention (all members or delegated members)
INLA Irish National Liberation Army; another republican terrorist group
IPLO Irish People's Liberation Organisation; another republican terrorist group, splintered from the INLA; now thought defunct
UDA Umbrella group for various loyalist paramilitary and terror groups
UVF Ulster Volunteer Force; a loyalist terror group
UFF a loyalist terror group; a cover name for the UDA
Red Hand Commandos a loyalist terror group; often said to be a cover name for the UVF
CLMC Combined Loyalist Military Command; seems to speak for loyalist terror groups; apparently they broke up recently
CAC Continuity Army Council; terror group linked to Republican Sinn Féin
CIRA Continuity IRA; same as CAC, though this seems to be their preferred name
RIRA Real IRA; splinter group that disagreed with IRA's ceasefire and "constitutionalism"
LVF Loyalist Volunteer Force; extremist loyalist terror group
ÓnhÉ Óglaigh na hÉireann (the Irish Volunteers); often used by republicans to refer to the IRA; lately used by RIRA to refer to themselves
Chuckies supporters of the (provisional) IRA and Sinn Féin (from "tiocfaidh ár lá", republican slogan, meaning "our day will come", pronounced roughly "chucky hour law")
Stickies supporters of the old "Official" IRA and Sinn Féin (now Workers Party)
Taig derogotary term for Catholic and/or Nationalist, derived from Irish name Tadhg
Hun derogotary term for "Protestant" and/or Unionist

6) Government

Dáil The lower house of the ROI parliament
Seanad The upper house of the ROI parliament
Leinster House The building where the Dáil and Seanad sit
TD Teachta Dála (Dáil Deputy); an MP in the ROI
Taoiseach The prime minister of the ROI
Tánaiste The deputy PM of the ROI
Uachtarán The Irish word for President
Stormont The old parliament building in NI, often refers to the institution itself
MEP Member of the European parliament, which sits in Strasbourg
Secretary of State (in Britain) government minister of cabinet rank; in Irish context, usually the one responsible for NI
Garda Short for Garda Siochána (guardian of the peace), ROI police
RUC Royal Ulster Constabulary, NI police
IDA Industrial Development Authority - ROI agency which tries to attract foreign investment
IDB Industrial Development Board - NI equivalent of IDA
FEC Fair Employment Commission - judges cases of religious discrimination in NI
Westminster Refers to British parliament and/or government
Gerrymander the manipulation of constituency boundaries to affect the outcome of an election or referendum (most effective under the first-past- the-post electoral system) [ named after Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814) U.S. politician and (at the time) Governor of Massachusetts who in 1812 devised a strangely shaped senate district that was caricatured into a salamander ]

7) Semi-State Bodies

Semi-State Body (in Ireland) Company in which the government has a controlling stake
RTÉ Raidio Teilifís Éireann; Irish state broadcasting company; often accused of harbouring Dublin 4 attitudes
Aer Lingus The state-owned airline
CIÉ Coras Iompar Éireann, The ROI state bus/rail transport company, comprises Iarnrod Éireann (Irish Rail), Bus Átha Cliath (Dublin Bus) and Bus Éireann (Irish Bus) mainly
VHI Voluntary Health Insurance - largest, and semi-state, health insurance company in ROI
An Post Post office in ROI
Telecom Éireann; Ireland's "The Phone Company"
Bord na Móna Turf
Bord Gáis Gas

8) Taxation & Spending

VAT Value Added Tax, a sales tax - 17.5% in NI, 12.5/21% in ROI
Dole Unemployment benefit; hence 'government artist': a euphemism for 'drawing the dole'
PAYE Pay As You Earn - taxation system where tax is deducted from your pay packet before you receive it; most important source of government revenue
PRSI Pay Related Social Insurance

9) Other Bodies

ICTU The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (an all-Ireland body)
IFA Irish Farmers Association, main ROI farmers group
SIPTU The largest trade union
IBEC Irish Business and Employers Confederation, the largest group of employers in the ROI
SPUC Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child - large anti-abortion group

10) Sport

GAA Gaelic Athletic Association, the governing body of the indigenous sports
Hurling Irish game played with sticks, like shinty
Football Can refer to either soccer or gaelic football or even (shock, horror!) rugby
Camogie The female version of hurling
Croke Park The main GAA stadium, in Dublin; known in Irish as Páirc Uí Chrocaigh
Hill 16 Stand at Croke Park
Rule 21 The GAA rule that denies membership to people in British armed forces and RUC
FAI The governing body of soccer in the South
IFA The governing body of soccer in the North
Landsdowne Rd. The stadium in Dublin where the all-Ireland rugby team and ROI soccer team play internationals
Windsor Park Stadium in Belfast where NI soccer team plays internationals
IRFU Irish Rugby Football Union - all Ireland rugby body

11) Current Affairs

EU European Union - economic and political alliance of 15 European countries
X Case Infamous abortion rights case which resulted in a referendum in 1992 to 'clear up' the issue
Extradition Sending someone who is wanted in another country on criminal charges to that other country; has often been an emotive issue in Ireland
Brendan Smyth Affair Case of pedophile priest and a delay in his extradition from ROI to NI that led to a government falling
Beef Tribunal Judicial enquiry in 1994(?) into irregularities of beef processing industry that revealed little and cost a lot; since then, several other tribunals have investigated other (suspected) political scandals with more or less success
On Mature Recollection (now facetious) used to back out on an awkward statement after being found out; first used by Brian Lenihan, FF candidate in the 1990 presidential election, to admit on live television that he did phone President Hillary in 1982 to ask him to refuse dissolution of the Dáil after the FG Taoiseach lost a vote of confidence; by not disolving the Dáil, Hillary would have allowed FF to try to form an alternative government by canvassing independent TDs; Lenihan's admission after repeated denials damaged his credibility lost him the presidency
GUBU (facetious) coined by CCOB after CJH (Taoiseach at the time) described the discovery of a killer in the flat of the Attorney General as "grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented"; came to be used as a popular shorthand for all scandals involving CJH
CAP Common Agricultural Policy - EU system of farm subsidies; largest portion of EU spending
Veronica Guerin Dublin crime journalist who exposed organised crime activities and was murdered in 1996 triggering public outcry and referendum on stricter bail laws
EU Structural Fund EU funding for projects such as road building similar to Cohesion Fund and Regional Fund
Indo Irish Independent; largest circulation daily newspaper in Ireland
Sindo Sunday Independent; largest circulation (surprise!) Sunday newspaper

12) NI Current Affairs

GFA Good Friday Agreement; the Northern Ireland settlement to end the troubles negotiated up until the early morning of the 10th of April, 1998, supported by majorities in NI and RoI in two simultaneous referenda in May; also referred variously to as the Belfast Agreement, the Stormont Agreement and the the British-Irish Agreement
Downing St. Declaration Joint Anglo-Irish communiqué issued in November 1995 which started the policy of parallel "tracks" of negotiation: one for arms decommisioning and one for all-party talks
Mitchell Principles Recommendations for democratic and non-violent negotiations, written by the International Body on Arms Decommisioning, headed by Senator Mitchell; principles state that "to take the gun out of Irish politics", all parties to negotiations should commit themselves "a. To democratic and exclusively peaceful means of resolving political issues; b. To the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations; c. To agree that such disarmament must be verifiable to the satisfaction of an independent commission; d. To renounce for themselves, and to oppose any effort by others, to use force, or threaten to use force, to influence the course or the outcome of all-party negotiations; e. To agree to abide by the terms of any agreement reached in all-party negotiations and to resort to democratic and exclusively peaceful methods in trying to alter any aspect of that outcome with which they may disagree; and, f. To urge that "punishment" killings and beatings stop and to take effective steps to prevent such actions."
Forum for Peace and Reconciliation Consultative body formed by ROI govt. comprising party groups from North and South, formed to "assist in identifying and clarifying issues which could most contribute to creating a new era of trust and co-operation on the island" of Ireland

13) Dead White Males

Strongbow Norman leader who led invasion of Ireland in 12th century
Daniel O'Connell 'The Emancipator'; Irish political leader and MP at Westminster in early 19th century; campaigned against anti-Catholic laws and later for repeal of Act of Union to Britain; died in 1847; thought greatest leader of 19th century by many; portrait and credo is on 20 pound note
Charles Stewart Parnell Late 19th century politician; first president of Land League; later, MP and leader of Home Rule Party; effective parliamentarian; demise followed scandalous affair with Kitty O'Shea; died after her divorce and their marriage in 1891
Éamonn de Valera Most important 20th century Irish nationalist politician; only commander to survive Easter Rising; president of first Dáil; opposed Treaty but survived; founder of Fianna Fáil; President of Executive Council/ Taoiseach '32-'48, '51-'54, '57-'59; President of Republic '59-'73; died in 1975
Michael Collins Irish republican leader; fought in Rising; highly successful head of intelligence during War of Independence; member of Treaty delegation; shot dead in 1922 during Civil War while Commander-in-Chief of pro-treaty forces
Edward Carson Barrister and Unionist politician; MP at Westminster; leader of Irish Unionist Party until 1921; proposed exclusion of Ulster from Home Rule and supported Ulster Volunteer Force in 1913; extremely successful legal and political career
King Billy William of Orange; Dutch Protestant who won British throne from Catholic tyrant James II, the latter having made his last stand in Ireland; King Billy is fondly remembered by NI Protestants

14) Other Historical Terms

Wild Geese Originally, supporters of James II who left Ireland after the Treaty of Limerick in 1691 to form the 'Irish Brigade' in Louis XIV's army. Also used to refer to refer to all those who left Ireland in the 17th century, and sometimes (loosely) all Irish emigrants.
Flight of Earls In 1607, the Earl of Tyrone, Hugh O'Neill, last leader of Gaelic Ireland, went into exile, bringing many Irish lords with him.

15) Monuments

Giants Causeway Structure of hexagonal basalt columns off NE coast
Newgrange Stone-age passage grave; illuminated on winter solstice
Blarney Stone Stone on castle wall which gives gift of the gab to those who kiss it, supposedly
Knock Marian shrine in Co. Mayo; a place of pilgrimage

16) Irish-America

AOH Ancient Order of Hibernians - a group for Catholic Irish men; stages marches; c.f. Orange Order
Morrison Visa Named after Irish-American senator; scheme that gave Irish people seeking residency in the US favourable treatment during late eighties

17) Myth and Folklore

Milesians Descendents of mythical Spanish king Milesius who supposedly conquered Ireland around 1300 BC; hence, Irish

18) General Terms

Craic Fun, good time
Ceol Music
Poteen Poitín; illicitly distilled whiskey, i.e. moonshine
Culchie Dublin term for someone from the country
Jackeen The opposite of culchie
Dublin 4 Postal code of supposedly wealthiest part of Dublin; thus used to describe posh accents and attitudes; D4 is also supposedly a den of wishy-washy liberals

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