A few eyebrows have been raised by Michael McDowell’s introduction of the second stage of the 2005 Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill in the Seanad as Gaeilge last Thursday.
Firstly concerns have been expressed about the powers granted under the legislation which will “allow EU states to tap phones and monitor text and email messages in Ireland, without first seeking permission from the Irish authorities”, see Carol Coulter in the Irish Times (subs. req.), Potatriotque and Tuppenceworth.
A second issue is the use of Irish by the Minister when introducing the bill. Irish politicians have a curious relationship with the official national language and this episode is no exception. In a front-page article in the Sunday Tribune (reg. req.) quoted a sceptical Joe Costello (Labour TD)
I know he has the cupla focal, but it is highly unusual for this minister to deliver a speech in Irish. It would immediately raise questions in my mind to look carefully at the detail in this piece of legislation
But a spokesperson for McDowell stated that the Minister simply “liked to make speeches in the Seanad in Irish”.
Was Michael McDowell simply availing of an opportunity to speak the language or was this a ‘tactical’ use of Irish? Richard Waghorne (of the Freedom Institute) thinks that the controversy reveals more about the role of the Irish language than about the Minister…