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What's the adjective for the country of Ireland (Eire in Irish) that specifically excludes Northern Ireland? For example when referring to the accent of people from the the Republic of Ireland but not to Ulster.

Ireland is geographically the whole island and politically consists of two countries:

  • in the north is Northern Ireland, or Ulster
  • in the south is the Republic of Ireland, or Ireland for short, and Eire in Irish

Language Log lists only "Irish" as the adjective to refer to the Republic of Ireland. For Ulster, "Northern Irish" is sometimes used as the adjective but "Northern Ireland" is 10 times more common (plus "British" is sometimes used).

You could write "Southern Irish" but I think this is wrong because it suggests the name of the Republic is "Southern Ireland", which it is not.

I think "southern Irish" is better as it doesn't make this suggestion, although it leaves some ambiguity: it could instead refer to the south of the geographical island of Ireland (just the southern parts of the Republic of Ireland).

Is capitalised "Southern Irish" in any way offensive to Irish people? Is "southern Irish" any better? Or is this just a matter of style?

Of course, there may be no simple, unabiguously clear adjective; the whole subject of the overlapping political and geographical names of Ireland and Britain is complicated as is clear from Language Log and Wikipedia, as are distinctions between British and Irish/Scottish/Welsh/English.

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Heh, I thought about asking this too :D –  Matt Эллен Jun 18 '12 at 15:42
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Non-Ulsterian perhaps? –  KitFox Jun 18 '12 at 15:52
    
You appear to be under the misapprehension that Ulster is the same as Northern Ireland. In fact, three counties of Ulster are in the Republic. –  TRiG Jan 6 '13 at 3:00
    
Good point! Northern Ireland is wholly within Ulster, but not the other way round. That makes it even more complicated! –  Hugo Jan 6 '13 at 8:04
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5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The name of the island and its parts is subject to complex cultural and political questions, as you've surmised. Even the British Media cannot agree on what names to use.

If you're looking to identify distinct regional accents on the island of Ireland you might be better off referring to the counties, or at least to the historical provinces: Leinster, Ulster, Munster, Connacht. Those correspond to the broad areas of regional English accents.

If you do need an adjective to refer to the Republic of Ireland, avoid Southern Ireland (capitalized) since that was briefly the name of a UK political constituent and could be confusing. You should similarly avoid using the Gaelic name Eire in English. One possibility is to refer to the Republic of Ireland in contrast to Northern Ireland, as I have done here. Some people still won't like even that, I suppose.

If you insist on having an adjective instead of using "of"-consructions, your choices are limited even further. Consider referring to the counties/provinces if you can, it's more exact and much less subject to dispute.

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Yup, figured somebody wouldn't like it. –  Mark Beadles Jun 18 '12 at 22:38
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The most common dialect of English spoken in the Republic of Ireland is called Hiberno English, while the most common dialect in Northern Ireland is called Ulster English (also spoken in the free counties of Monaghan, Donegal, Cavan and northern Louth). If you wanted to refer to a specific accent you'd have to refer to the name of the area (i.e. Dublin accent, Cork accent, Midlands accent, etc.), since there is way too much variation in accents in Ireland to be able to generalise any further than that.

In the Republic of Ireland, I have never heard anybody use any adjective other than "Irish" to refer to themselves. As in the case of my dialect comment above, people would say they are from a specific town or city, but not that they are "southern Irish" or anything like that to distinguish themselves from the "Northern Irish". It's obviously a highly political issue in the North (though not as much so in the Republic), and people there generally refer to themselves as "Irish"—thus making no distinction between North and South—, "Northern Irish" or—to a lesser extent and incorrectly—"British". Incidentally, it isn't entirely uncommon to hear older people speak of "the Free State" and refer to the inhabitants as "Freestaters", but that dates back to the pre-Republic times and thus is not correct anymore, except in a historical context.

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Perhaps going more specific is the solution? It was for the older meaning of "Indian", which is now "Native American", and also points to residence/origin rather than what a person is like.

I think the region has to get a name of its own before you can think of an adjective. Wikipedia uses *S*outhern Ireland for a region that isn't autonomous anymore. This makes it hard, but likely the reader will get that you mean the part of Ireland outside Northern Ireland.

I think non-Ulsterian was a decent suggestion by KitFox. If I would suggest something else, it would be "the x accent of Ireland", where x is a different adjective such as original, native, old, or something along those lines.

The alternative is "accent outside Ulster", "main Irish accent", or perhaps "accent of main Eire".

But I think you should risk sounding like a historian and go for "accent of Southern Ireland", or "Southern Irish accent". The risk that someone misunderstands it is quite small, since Northern Ireland is something people get instantly; it's already a well-defined concept in everyone's heads. They won't think you're on about some native tongue on the southmost tip of Ireland, and they won't think you're referring to the region that existed for two years.

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I do not think Southern Ireland is useful, especially as the Republic comprises far more than any geographic conception of Southern Ireland. I've only seen "Southern Cyprus", as opposed to the Republic of Cyprus, used sarcastically on a Turkish-Cypriot map to make a political point. Nor, of course, is there an East Virginia. –  Andrew Lazarus Nov 29 '12 at 19:13
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Although the OED states differently (compare this link), when in Ireland I have often heard people refer to their homeland as "Eire".

Furthermore, if you want to travel through the Republic of Ireland by public transport, you are likely to use one of the coaches run by Bus Éireann (as in this link).

For this reason I suggest the adjective Éireann to refer to things pertaining to the Republic of Ireland. I haven't found it anywhere in dictionaries of English, but in my opinion it is not too hard to guess its meaning.

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Éireann and Eire are not English words. Further -- in Gaelic, it just means "Ireland" and does not distinguish between Ulster and the south. –  Mark Beadles Jun 18 '12 at 15:41
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@MarkBeadles. I know, and I stated that Eirann is not to be found in dictionaries of English (although Eire is). However, I feel that it is the closest term you can find to indicate something which only relates to the Republic of Ireland. I suppose it might still touch a soft spot for some people, which I perhaps do not fully appreciate not being British, but I think it shouldn't be so different from the usage of a German terminology (Süd Tyrol) to indicate an Italian region, and nobody gets particularly upset about it. –  Paola Jun 18 '12 at 15:52
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I think the main issue is that in Irish, "Éireann" does not refer unambiguously to the country, but also to the entire island. –  Mark Beadles Jul 20 '12 at 20:34
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The adjectival form of Ireland is Irish. For this and other geographical names, see this document, published by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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But he's explicitly not asking for the geographical name.. –  TimLymington Jun 18 '12 at 11:11
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