State services through Irish ‘must be guaranteed’ by 2016

Irish speakers’ forum wants assurances cases can be held in Irish without translation

The new president of Conradh na Gaeilge, Dubliner Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, has said  the demand for language rights was evidenced by the high attendance at events such  Lá Mór na Gaeilge, above, last month in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

The new president of Conradh na Gaeilge, Dubliner Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, has said the demand for language rights was evidenced by the high attendance at events such Lá Mór na Gaeilge, above, last month in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Mon, Mar 3, 2014, 12:52

State services for Gaeltacht communities through Irish must be guaranteed “without condition or question” by 2016, newly elected president of Conradh na Gaeilge, Dubliner Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, said at the weekend.

Mr Ó Cearbhaill, who was elected at its ardfheis in Killarney, said the language was at a “critical juncture”, with the Irish speaking community North and South seeking to have their language rights vindicated by both governments.

He said the demand for language rights was evidenced by the high attendance at two events in February: Lá Mór na Gaeilge, attended by up to 10,000 people, and Slán le Seán in Connemara, attended by up to 1,000 people. He predicted another high turnout for the upcoming An Lá Dearg in Belfast in April.

Mr Ó Cearbhaill said State systems and politicians “must provide adequate protection and support to the Irish speaking community”.

An emergency motion based on the refusal to provide a bilingual jury in Irish and English in the case of Peadar Ó Maicín from Ros Muc was passed unanimously. Last Thursday the Supreme Court ruled Mr Ó Maicín did not have the right to a bilingual jury, in a trial in which he is charged with assault in Lettermore, Co Galway, in 2008.

Mr Ó Cearbhaill said it was “a national embarrassment that the Republic of Ireland is the only independent country in the world where a citizen cannot take legal action in the national language of the country and have their case heard in the court without translation”.

The motion recommended “an amendment to the Official Languages Act 2003 to ensure that a citizen, especially from the Gaeltacht, can be certain that all members of the jury will understand the evidence accurately without assistance”.

The ardfheis also called for the repeal of the Administration of Justice (Language) Act (Ireland) 1737, which forbids the use of any language but English in court proceedings in Northern Ireland.