An Irish language speaker, Caoimhin Mac Giolla Cathain, a member of the Shaws Road Gaeltacht in west Belfast, was informed that his application in Irish for a drinks licence could not be considered.
Court staff said the reason was that the Administration of Justice (Language) Act of 1737 stipulated that “all proceedings in courts of justice within this kingdom shall be in the English language”.
Mr Justice Treacy dismissed Mr Cathain’s contention that the 1737 Act was incompatible with the European Charter for Regional and Minorities Language and secondly that the Act was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Solicitor Michael Flanagan said “We find it difficult to accept that legislation created in 1773 is still fit for purpose in a modern and diverse society and especially so in the light of the Good Friday Agreement’s commitment to promoting minority and regional languages.”
Historian Dr Eamon Phoenix concluded: “The 1737 Act can be viewed as a piece of discriminatory legislation directed at the mother tongue of the mass of the Irish population at that time.It is therefore the cultural equivalent of the penal laws.”
“On the contrary” said Dr McBride, King’s College, London. He stated: “I cannot find any evidence to suggest that the Act was ever regarded as part of the ‘penal laws,’ that it was intended as (an) anti-Catholic measure, or that it was intended to weaken the position of the Irish language in Ireland.”
According to the Judgment approved by the Court for handing down
“The 1737 Act was intended to prevent people being misled or in the language of Section 1 “ensnared” by writs and formal documents formulated in Latin, French or other foreign languages. It was a statute intended to reform the then prevailing antiquated and linguistically cumbersome court procedures to remove some of the procedural complexities arising from ancient writs and procedures formulated in legal language no longer comprehensible to ordinary litigants. There is nothing to suggest that those who could only speak Irish were prevented from giving their evidence in Irish subject to translation. English was the common working language of the higher courts in Ireland, a consequence of the imposition of English common law on Ireland. Whatever may be said of the adverse consequence of that linguistic policy to the Irish language the present position is that English is not merely the working language of the courts. It is now clearly the working language of nearly the entire population”
How many people in Northern Ireland understand spoken Irish?
An average of 1% can understand complicated spoken sentences and radio or TV programmes in Irish. A mean of 1% use Irish at home, conversing with family or housemates, on a daily basis and 3% occasionally(7% Catholics vs <0.5% Protestants). Another 2% understand a simple conversation in Irish. A further 3% can understand simple spoken sentences or phrases, e.g. ‘It’s half past three’
Another 4% can understand single spoken words or simple phrases, e.g. ‘Hello’ or ‘How are you?’
Age, health status, level of deprivation of the area they live in and if they live in an urban or rural location are all related to the likelihood of having knowledge of Irish. More Catholics know Irish than Protestants (29% and 2% respectively). Overall, 18% of the population in Northern Ireland are interested in learning more about Irish (29% Catholics and 8% Protestants).
According to Article 8 of the 1937 Constitution of Ireland (Irish: Bunreacht na hÉireann) Irish is the first language of the country, with English – in theory – enjoying a supplementary function.
Article 8 of the Constitution of Ireland
1. Ós í an Ghaeilge an teanga náisiúnta is í an phríomhtheanga oifigiúil í. 2. Glactar leis an Sacs-Bhéarla mar theanga oifigiúil eile. (‘1. Because Irish is the national language, it is the main official language. 2. English is accepted as another official language’, translation RH).
Despite this constitutional support, English is in effect the language of public life and around 99% of Ireland’s four million people speak it as a native language. Nonetheless, Irish has a special status in Ireland.
The St Andrews Agreement
In October 2006, in Appendix B
Both governments agreed the UK Government would introduce an Irish Language Act and work with the incoming Executive to enhance and protect the development of the Irish Language.
The British and the Irish Governments actually agreed that?
The agreement is between the British Government and the Irish
Government and not the Belfast Government in Stormont
The unionist political parties issued public statements stating their intention to veto any Irish language legislation
Democratic Unionist Party Ministers for Culture, Arts and Leisure at the NI Assembly have stated publicly that they will not enact the Irish Language Act.
16th October 2007: Minister Edwin Poots
stated that he ‘was not persuaded of the need for Irish Language legislation.’
4th December 2008: Minister Gregory Campbell
in response to the question
‘When does the Minister intend to introduce an Irish language Act, so that there is parity
between Wales, Scotland and the North of Ireland?’ stated, ‘I do not intend to do so.’
Minister Nelson McCausland,
made a number of negative comments about the Irish Language Act and he stated that he would continue to implement the same approach as his predecessors.
David McNarry (originally UUP, now UKIP) Past Assistant Grand Master Orange Order,
reaffirmed the unionist will to veto an Irish language act.
Not being satisfied with attempting to stymie the proposed act, he now essentially seeks to ban the Irish language from Stormont,
as it offends Unionist bigoted sensibilities.
The same hostility towards the Irish language persists in other Departments and throughout some of the structures of the devolved institutions. Peter Quinn, Chairman of Irish broadcaster TG4, accused senior NI civil servants of bias against the Irish language.
Since 2007 international bodies have noted the intolerance and sectarianism
prevalent in discussions at Assembly level around the Irish language
The Council of Europe Committee of Experts on the European Charter for Regional or Minority
Languages (2010) raises the issue of the resistance of some unionists.
‘as things currently stand, legislation on the protection and promotion of the Irish language is unlikely to be made by the NI Assembly. It could however be made by the UK Parliament under its parallel competence.’
The Experts urge the UK authorities, ‘to provide an appropriate legislative base for the protection and promotion of Irish in NI’.
Calling all Unionists!
Does this frighten you?
As a native English speaker does this terrify you? If so, care to explain why?
PS For all further info about the status of the Irish language please see the expert: http://ansionnachfionn.com/