If Martin McGuinness made a speech about his home city which began with the words “It is great to be back in Londonderry,” what would his supporters think?
OK, you all know the answer. A Nationalist or Republican would usually only say “Derry.” A unionist would usually say “Londonderry.” If Martin McGuinness made that gaffe, I suspect that his supporters would be angered and embarrassed in equal measure.
That is the nearest local analogy that I can think of to describe the gaffe make by Nicolas Sarkozy when he visited Alsace, a region of North-Eastern France on the border with Germany. Except that the gaffe was far worse than that. Firstly, the background.
In 1871, France went to war with Germany after the German States merged to become a Prussian – dominated German Empire. The French lost the war and part of its lands. The Germans annexed the territory known as “Alsace-Lorraine” which remained in their possession until the end of the First World War. In the Second World War, the region was, again, treated as part of Germany.
As the Telegraph reports:
“Mr Sarkozy made the slip during a speech in the Alsatian town of Truchtersheim, less than 20 miles from the German border.
Speaking to representatives of the agricultural industry, Mr Sarkozy said he could accepted unfair competition between China and India, but not between Germany and France.
"I’m not saying that simply because I’m in Germany," he said, before correcting himself to say: "I’m in Alsace."
The crowd immediately began jeering and then booing Mr Sarkozy, who appeared shocked by what he had said " putting his hands up in the air as if surrender. “
To be fair to Sarko, it was probably an innocent slip of the tongue. "Allemagne" (meaning Germany) and "Alsace" are phonetically very similar words of the French language.