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Bossi 'sorry' for 'Roman pigs' quip

'Only joking,' federalist leader says

30 September, 13:01
Bossi 'sorry' for 'Roman pigs' quip (ANSA) - Rome, September 30 - Northern League leader Umberto Bossi on Thursday apologised for offending Romans with an old wisecrack saying the famed S.P.Q.R. tag meant Romans were 'pigs'.

"I apologise to citizens, who felt insulted, but it was just a quip," said the outspoken federalist leader.

Bossi claimed too much had been made out of the incident.

"I was hanged for a remark," he said.

The Senator and Reforms Minister voiced confidence that a no-confidence motion in him as minister would be defeated.

"It was just a joke," he repeated.

The centre-left Democratic Party filed the motion on Tuesday, a day after Bossi made the remark at a beauty contest where he railed against a planned new Rome Grand Prix, saying "they can ride chariots down there".

The quip, that the S.P.Q.R. tag stood for "Sono Porci Questi Romani" ("These Romans Are Pigs"), was met with a bipartisan volley of criticism and Premier Silvio Berlusconi urged Bossi to issue an apology.

Bossi was only defended by a handful of MPs who said people were taking offence at a well-known old joke, something Asterix the Gaul said in the famous comic strip. The S.P.Q.R acronym, standing for Senatus PopulusQue Romanus (The Senate and Roman People), was coined soon after ancient Rome became a republic.

It continued to be used after Rome became an empire and is seen all around the capital today, not only on Roman monuments but also on modern municipal plaques, drinking fountains and sewer covers.

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