Italian minister calls Rome citizens "pigs"
Italian Reforms Minister Umberto Bossi on Monday faced calls for his resignation after he reportedly branded citizens of the country's capital, Rome, "pigs, DPA reported
Bossi was speaking of his Northern League party's push to introduce federalist reforms - which would give regional authorities in Italy greater powers - and the need to relocate some of the state ministries away from Rome.
"They (the ministries) cannot all be in Rome where one finds the initials SPQR that [in Latin] stand for Senatus Populusque Romanus (The Senate and Roman People), but that we here in the North say stand for 'Sono Porci Questi Romani' (These Romans are Pigs)," he said.
The initials SPQR, originally used by the Ancient Romans, appear in the modern city's coat of arms and on municipal property.
Bossi, leader of the anti-immigration and sometimes separatist Northern League party, allegedly made the remarks during a beauty pageant near the northern city of Monza.
The contest, organized by the party to elect Miss Padania, is only open to women from Italy's northern regions.
"This time Bossi has really gone beyond the limit," Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said commenting on Bossi's remarks.
Alemanno, a leading member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's conservative People of Freedom party, said he would write to the premier asking him to ensure that cabinet ministers showed more "respect for the dignity of Rome's citizens."
Former Rome mayor, Francesco Rutelli, a member of the centre-left opposition put it more bluntly.
"Bossi should resign as minister. He can't represent the entire nation," Rutelli said.
But several members of Berlusconi's coalition tried to downplay the comments of Bossi, on whose alliance with the premier the governing coalition depends for its parliamentary majority.
"It is wrong that a part of the political class is indulging in polemics and manipulations after an unfortunate quip by Umberto Bossi," said People of Freedom spokesman Daniele Capezzone.
The outspoken Bossi, who claims his party and Italy's prosperous North are rooted in "Celtic" traditions, in contrast to the civilisation of Ancient Rome, is not new to controversy.
On several occasions he has insulted reporters by sticking his finger up at them, and has suggested that cannon fire be used to deter illegal immigrants from trying to reach Italy's shores by boat.