Speaking with Dubliners in their own language

I'm glad to say I was schooled in Dublin with the benefit of a broad 'curriculum'. It was a very different world; long before the tiger economy was even a twinkle in a Taoiseach's eye.

It was a much less cosmopolitan city then, but grand Georgian Dublin was always distinctive from other Irish cities. "Augustan capital of a Gaelic nation," was Louis Macniece's description. He acknowledged he wasn't "born or schooled" there. It was a great experience. Not least it helped to shape my political views.

Every time I've visited the city since, I've felt a sense of affinity. So it was on a flying visit recently to take part in a focus group for gardening magazine, Irish Garden. Really it was an excuse to see my younger daughter and some old friends.

First things first. A father's duty is to feed his children, even after they've flown the nest. According to the menu, a restaurant served 12-inch pizzas on a "tin" base. Had the foreign writer learned his or her English in Dublin? Some similar process probably accounted for the "spring roils". At least I can talk to Dubs in their own language having had the benefit of 'grinds' from a native speaker. She was from Ballyfermot.

After the business, I had another meeting in a popular hostelry. I'm badly out of practice with "the blonds in the black skirts". Still, we made a reasonable contribution to the takings on a quiet Monday evening. But, now that sterling is almost at parity with the euro, prices in Dublin must seem even scarier.

Retail trade magazine 'Shelf Life' says operating costs for business are up to 30% higher in the Republic than they are in the north and rents are up to 185% higher. Business competitiveness in the south needs to be seriously addressed. Dundalk's branch of Superquinn is the latest casualty in the upsurge of cross-border shopping.

Incidentally, some unionist politicians jumped up and down when Martin McGuinness described "partitionism" as an evil. They were showing their ignorance. The term 'partitionism' has always been used as a criticism of those in the south who pay lip-service to the ideal of Irish unity but who are smugly comfortable with the 26 county Republic. Of course, Unionists want partition but the term has never been applied to them. So it was in this case, when the Deputy First Minister was clearly criticising people in the south who had spoken-out against cross-border shopping. Shouldn't unionists have agreed with Martin?