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Margaret Thatcher was wrong: Ulster has never been and will never be as British as Finchley

Letter of the day: nationality debate

Conflicting points of view on whether the six north-east counties of Ireland are as British as Finchley have been expressed following Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill's disagreement over the subject.

To scrutinise the claim, it is useful to look at the etymologies of the place names. Finchley is derived from 'finch leah', which is Old English for 'finch clearing'. Finchley is in London, which has a name derived from the Brythonic terms for Fort of Lud.

Ulster is derived from the Gaelic for 'land of the bearded people'. Antrim is derived from the Gaelic for 'one tribe', 'one ridge' or 'one dwelling' (depending on etymological interpretation). Down means 'fort' from the Fort of Lethglas. Derry came from the Gaelic phrase for 'oak grove'. Armagh was construed from 'Macha's height', and Macha was a goddess worshipped at Navan Fort. Fermanagh translates as 'the men of the country of lakes'. Tyrone means 'land of Eoghan', after King Eoghan Mac Neill.

Comparing the demography of central and east Ulster and Finchley is interesting. Finchley is 71% British, according to data, whereas 48.4% of people in this territory are British. Some 28.4% of people here are Irish, whereas 1% of people in Finchley are Irish.

Suggesting that these two thirds of the province of Ulster are as British as Finchley is, quite frankly, ludicrous.

EAMONN MACGRIANNA

Belfast

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