The owners of the Flying Enterprise pub in Cork have been urged to admit that they made a mistake in ordering a staff member not to speak Irish as over 50 people mounted a picket outside the pub in support of the man who has since left his job at the pub.
Saturday's protest was organised by Cork Irish support group, Gael Taca and Chairperson, Cáit Ní Shúilleabháin urged Flying Enterprise owner, Finbarr O'Shea to admit he had made a mistake when telling bar man and native speaker, Cormac Ó Bruic that he could not speak Irish in the pub.
"We feel that it is very unfair of management at The Flying Enterprise to discriminate against someone who was speaking in the native language and we will be advising our members that we ... will be boycotting the pub until they change their stance on the Irish language.
“If Finbarr O’Shea is happy to come out and apologise and say he has made a mistake, that he should not have discriminated as such against somebody who was speaking one of the official languages of the State, then we would have no problem going back there - everyone can make mistakes.”
Ms Ní Shúilleabháin said Gael Taca’s office was just around the corner from The Flying Enterprise near the South Gate Bridge and staff and members of the group had often gone there after meetings but such custom would now be withdrawn from the pub.
During the protest, demonstators chanted Padraig Pearse’s dictum “Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam” (A country without a language is a country without a soul” and they adapted it to “Tabhairne gan teanga, tabhairne gan anam” (A pub without a language is a pub without a soul).
Among those joining the protest was TG4 Muintir na Mara presenter, Padraig Ó Duinnín who said he could not understand the rationale behind the pub's decision not to allow Mr Ó Bruic converse in Irish with anyone who wanted to speak to him in the language.
“It’s crazy. It beggars belief that he was being sanctioned for speaking Irish, one of the official languages of the State, at his place of work - I just think it’s wrong and that’s why I’m pleased to be here to put down a marker. I think it’s important that people should be allowed speak as Gaeilge.”
The owner of The Flying Enterprise, Finbarr O Shea was not available for comment last night but the pub did post a statement on its Facebook page in which it declined to discuss the exact details of Mr Ó'Bruic's case but did explain why it operated an English only policy for its staff.
“We wish to clarify that Cormac was not fired or dismissed nor did we intend to fire or dismiss Cormac in this regard. However while Cormac did initially engage with the Human Resources process he decided to leave before the process was concluded.
“We currently employ up to seventy people and of them there are six different nationalities who all speak their native language. They respect that while at work the most sensible and practical language to speak is English,” said the statement.
Hundreds of comments have been posted on social media, the vast majority of which are critical of the stance adopted by the bar. Comments have also been posted on review sites Trip Advisor and Google.
A native Irish speaker from an Fheothanach in Corca Dhuibhne, Cormac Ó Bruic first went public with his story on An Saol Ó Dheas on Raidio na Gaeltachta and told how he left his job at the pub after he as told that he could no longer speak Irish to other staff members in the pub.
Mr Ó Bruic told The Irish Times that he was told by the owner’s wife on August 4th that he had to stop speaking Irish in the pub and the next day, Mr O’Shea approached him and told him that he was forbidden from speaking Irish in the pub.
According to Mr Ó Bruic, he was too upset to work that night and asked for a week to think about whether he should be included in the following week’s roster but a week later on August 11th, he received a letter from Mr O’Shea with his p45.
Mr Ó Bruic said Mr O’Shea stated in his letter that the The Flying Enterprise was “an English-speaking business” and that there had been complaints from customers who felt “uncomfortable” with him (Mr Ó Bruic) speaking Irish. Mr Ó Bruic said he was unaware of a language policy in the pub.