APPARENTLY Squinter’s old pal, the Sunday Independent columnist Eoghan Harris, received a death threat at the weekend. Well, he didn’t receive it – somebody answering the phone at O’Reilly Towers fielded it on his behalf.

The Irish Independent reported that the threat had been made by “a caller to Independent News and Media purporting to be a supporter of Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness”. The man said “Eoghan Harris should be shot for what he is writing about Martin McGuinness and I’m the man to do it.”

Squinter can only assume that in the Free State they have very different notions on death threats than we do up here. Your correspondent knows that of which he speaks. Over the years he has been the target of perhaps five or six what you might call ‘proper’ death threats – Mass and sympathy cards, notes, bullets in the post; he has also had his personal details posted online and been accused of being a member of the IRA (intriguingly, a quick check reveals that that one’s still up on the Web, some five or six years after Squinter first spotted it).

Here in Belfast, we tend not to count people slabbering down the phone about putting you down the bury-hole as death threats because, well… because it just happens; it’s part of the job. Thankfully, most of the people who make such threats are holding the receiver with one hand and a half-bottle of Powers in the other.

The idea that they’re a little bit more precious down there gained currency with a little titbit added on to the end of the Eoghan Harris death threat story.

The Independent reported that members of McGuinness’s entourage had “threatened” a Sunday Independent reporter who expressed an interest in the BMW car that the candidate was travelling in. The journalist said that as he prepared to take a picture of the car (there’s another thing they do differently – up here photographers take pictures) four of McGuinness’s “associates” expressed concern that the paper would publish the picture of the car with the number plate visible.

The reporter said that number plates were normally blacked-out, but then the men “moved in closer than was comfortable and proceeded to point their fingers and verbally harangue me”.

Closer than was comfortable, eh? Isn’t war hell?