Welcome to the Independent Republic of Fingal

It’s always been considered different, and even had its own dialect, so is it time that Fingal went solo?

Land of fair foreigners: members of Fingal Living History Group. Photograph: Alan Betson

Land of fair foreigners: members of Fingal Living History Group. Photograph: Alan Betson

Sat, Apr 5, 2014, 01:00

It has been a difficult week to be a Fingallian. It felt as if the clocks had been turned back, that the dark shadow of anti-Fingal sentiment once again raised its head, that we were dragged back to the kind of 16th-century mindset that could allow Holinshed’s Irish Chronicle to blithely describe Fingal as an “odd corner of the country”.

To the rest of Dublin, Fingal is currently at best an odd corner of the county, at worst a selfish lot that destroyed the long-held dream of real Dubliners to directly elect their mayor.

On Monday, Fingal councillors vetoed plans to put the idea of a directly elected Dublin mayor before the electorate. It didn’t matter that Fingal had been set up as the fall guy for the Government’s strategy to scupper the proposal. Social media was awash with rage.

“Whatever about Fingal councillors being against a directly elected mayor, voting against letting the people decide is just being a jerk,” said Panti Bliss.

“Dubliners denied vote on whether they want elected Mayor by Fingal Councillors. Law should be changed to go ahead without Fingal,” said Stephen Donnelly, the Independent TD for the distant lands of Wicklow and East Carlow.

There was worse. This from the journalist Colette Browne: “Who knew Fingal was in a fight to the death with the rest of Dublin? Maybe it should secede and get it over with.”

And for anybody sitting at a screen in that very part of the world, reading those words while a bright sun rose over the gleaming Fingal coast, its warmth gently encouraging the spring buds to emerge from its famously rich and fertile soil, it was hard not to feel the stirrings of a deep and latent Fingallianism.

With it came a notion.

Perhaps it is time to tell Dublin that it can have not only its plebiscite but also the rest of the county. It was good while it lasted, but we’ve grown apart. What if Fingal took its place as the 33rd county?

It is already an extra county on an administrative level. In fact, so wealthy has this made Fingal that its motto, Flúirse Talaimh is Mara (Abundance of Land and Sea), should be extended to instead read “Abundance of Land and Water and Commercial Rates”.

But the existence of Fingal goes far deeper. It was being written of 1,000 years ago, its very name (which means Fair Foreigners) indicative of an otherness as early as Viking times. That could be the first piece of evidence in a possible move to having its modern-day natives defined as an ethnic minority.

Critics on Twitter might consider this next time they are poised to tweet something disparaging of Fingal. One day you could become retrospectively racist.

Until the mid 19th century there was even a Fingallian dialect. In 1698 John Dunton, in his delightfully titled book Teague Land: or A Merry Ramble to the Wild Irish , wrote that the people of Fingal “have a sort of jargon speech peculiar to themselves, and understand not one word of Irish, and are as little understood by the English”.

Here’s a sentence of it: Thoo ware good for loand stroand and mounteen. (Thou were good for land, strand and mountain.) If you think the whole Ulster-Scots thing is a bit silly, reddy thooself far a barney on this one.

By the way, Dunton also described Fingallians as being the best wrestlers in the country. The rest of Dublin might want to keep that in mind should tensions rise.

But what about modern Fingal?

It is a market-gardening powerhouse. The area provides half the national vegetable output and three-quarters of all glasshouse crops, meaning it could raise prices or even cut off supply at any moment, in the way you might do with – and let’s pick a random analogy here – an international gas pipeline.

But most importantly, there is one particular trump card: Co Fingal would have Dublin (soon to be Fingal) Airport. In any civil conflict it always appears that this is the first thing each side wants to grab.

And should Fingal move for secession Dubliners can forget about swiftly mobilising its forces to get to the airport first, thanks to the city’s historic inability to create a proper transport infrastructure in and out of there.

Which is a situation, ironically, that might have been solved if Dublin had a directly elected mayor.

shegarty@irishtimes.com
@shanehegarty

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