THE sportswear giant Nike has apologised after issuing a St Patrick's Day-themed training shoe which raised memories of a British paramilitary unit notorious for terrorising Catholics in the 1920s.
The $90 (€69) limited edition "Black and Tan" runners were launched in the United States in time for this weekend's St Patrick's Day celebrations, a popular and often alcohol-filled holiday for millions of Irish Americans.
Officially named the SB Dunk Low, Nike said that it had nicknamed the "beer-themed" shoe the Black and Tan because its colours were reminiscent of a pint of Guinness mixed with Harp pale ale.
But Irish Americans protested that the name evoked memories of the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force, known as the Black and Tans for their makeshift uniforms, which carried out a brutal crackdown on Roman Catholics between 1920 and 1921.
One critic said that naming the trainer Black and Tan was so "insensitive" it was comparable to calling it al-Qaeda.
Adverts for the trainer read: "Tis the season for Irish beer and why not celebrate with Nike. The Black and Tan sneaker takes inspiration for the fine balancing act of a Stout (Guinness) on top a Pale Ale (Harp) in a pint glass."
Displays in stores around the country directly describe the shoes as "Black and Tans," although this is not the official name given by the shoe's manufacturer.
A spokesman for Nike said: "This month Nike is scheduled to release a version of the Nike SB Dunk Low that has been unofficially named by some using a phrase that can be viewed as inappropriate and insensitive. We apologise. No offence was intended." Ciaran Staunton, President of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform said: "Is there no one at Nike able to Google Black and Tan?"
The Black and Tans were World War One veterans recruited by the Royal Irish Constabulary as temporary constables and deployed in Ireland to help suppress the IRA uprising which led to the formation of the Republic.
They became infamous for their brutal treatment of civilians including women and children, burning and sacking towns and villages in revenge for IRA assassinations.
Much of the centre Cork was destroyed by the Black and Tans after a constable was killed in the city in December 1920, and the force was condemned by the local cardinal who called them: "a horde of savages, some of them simply brigands, burglars and thieves." "Black and Tan" remains a pejorative name for the British security forces to this day in Ireland.
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