Mountains and molehills

Bairbre de Brun is trying to build up a head of steam over criminal proceedings against an Irish-medium teacher, Maire Nic an Bhaird. She has issued two statements, the first made the dodgy claim that the arrest was “for speaking Irish” and in the second she makes questionable claims about the Language Charter and Criminal Justice Review to support the accused’s demand for “all proceedings should now be in Irish”. (Hat tip to El Blogador)The second statement seems to involve some back pedalling from the original claim:
“Regardless of the details of this case the deciding factor in whether or not this young woman found herself before the courts appears to be that she is an Irish speaker.”

On the issue of proceedings in Irish, the MEP claims that:
“As a result of the British government’s ratification of Part III of the European Charter of Regional or Minority Languages, of the Good Friday Agreement and of the Criminal Justice Review the legal proceedings should now be provided in Irish.”

However, either Ms de Brun is unaware of what the Part III ratification and Review have to say on the issue or she is making a deliberately false claim. The Criminal Justice Review was produced before the ratification of the Council of Europe Charter and on the use of Irish said the following:
“In the Belfast Agreement the Government gave a commitment to promote the use of Irish in public life. Since the Agreement the Government has announced its intention to sign the Council of Europe Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In specifying Irish under the Charter the Government has undertaken to eliminate any unjustified distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference relating to the use of a regional or minority language and intended to discourage or endanger the maintenance of it. Under Part III of the Charter specific measures are proposed to promote the use of Irish in public life. We recommend that consideration of the use of the Irish language in courts be taken forward in the wider context of the development of policy on the use of Irish in public life generally.”
Subsequent Review reports have only mentioned the issue was being examined but no firm recommendations

When a government ratifies the language charter is specifies which languages are covered, which form of recognition (Part II and Part III) and select from the 65 paragraphs of Part III which ones they intend to apply for each language. In Part III Article 9 deals with judicial authorities. When the government ratified the Charter for Irish language it adopted Paragraph 3 of Article 9. This commits authorities to:
“…undertake to make available in the regional or minority languages the most important national statutory texts and those relating particularly to users of these languages, unless they are otherwise provided.”
So no commitment in either the Review or under the Charter to hold court proceedings in Irish.

de Brun also claims this case “shows the need for an Irish language act.” but does it? Leaving aside whether spending resources on this is the best way to promote a minority language or not, Article 9 Paragraph 1 of the Charter provides for the use of a minority language in court cases so no need for some new piece of legislation with yet another Commissioner to oversee its enforcement, the Foreign Office contacting the Council of Europe adding the paragraph should do it.