SDLP promise action on 1737 Justice Act

Speaking at the Pobal organised meeting on the 1737 Justice Act, Pól Ó Ceallaigh Ó Ceallacháin of the SDLP, speaking on behalf of Mark Durkan the SDLP leader, promised action on the question of the 1737 Justice Act. The act, which has been described by lawyers and historian Eamon Phoneix as a ‘penal law’ effectively bans the Irish language from courts in the North.

Mr Ó Ceallaigh Ó Ceallacháin informed the well attended meeting that should the appeal following the recent ‘Mac Giolla Catháin case’ fail, then the SDLP is committed to introducing a bill in the assembly on the issue. As policing and justice is a reserved matter, it is difficult to see how the SDLP’s bill would operate, however it would clearly be widely welcomed by Irish speakers.

Janet Muller of Pobal suggested at the meeting that the most sensible course of action for the British government would be to quietly drop the Act at the earliest oppurtunity.


Pól Ó Ceallacháin has in the comments corrected me a little, go raibh maith agaibh a Phóil, Mark Durkan MP inteads to raise the issue in Westminister. Fair play dó.

  • pigeon

    What a pile of pish. Pol o whatever, if he/she gets into trouble will crawl over broken glass to have him/herself defended by a competent barrister and not some twat speaking icelandic to a judge who does not speak urdu.

  • ersehole

    Back to your loft, birdbrain.

  • Gertntfe

    What a nice little earner. Just think of all the lovely new jobs for the buoys. Soon no doubt we’ll see them yins and the hamely tongue stepping up to cash in as well.

    Kerching! There goes funding for some nurse or teacher.

    What an Alice in Wonderland place Northern Ireland is.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Kerching! How many nurses and teachers does the extended Unionist paradefest cost? Now this is something that we COULD do without.

  • Gertntfe

    Nice bit of whataboutery Neddy, about as pointless as English to Irish or Ulster Scots translation for English speakers.

  • Righteo

    As a Star Trek fan if I ever go to court I’ll ask for the proceedings to be conducted in Klingon.

    Kafarg nac tagna smag!

  • Pancho’s Horse

    I accept that we were conquered by the great English and that the first step in securing the conquered land is to remove all traces of the aboriginal culture.This is accomplished in several ways. Put a social/legal/economic ban on the use of the language and sneer at and denigrate the users of the language. Of course, there are always the cynics – the citizens of the world – who for their own, mostly selfish, reasons support this stance. What good is it? Sure everybody knows English. Could the money not be better used? But that doesn’t make it right. And we will fight.

  • Daithí

    Ba chorr do Pháirtí Sóisialta Daonlathach an Lucht Oibre rogha le haghaidh leagain Gaeilge a chur a suíomh:

    Ar aon nós, táim buíochach as an ráiteas sin.

  • The Raven

    Daithi, I didn’t understand a word of what you just wrote. But I respect your right to use it.

    Reading this thread, I wish there were more who did. I don’t think the attitude of some of the posters in here extends to only the P/U/L camp either. I have always been disappointed by the lack of support and fight from some ont’other side.

    Anyway. I’m neither a barrister, a nationalist, nor someone who is likely to need a command of Irish in a court any time soon. Perhaps I shouldn’t comment. But Pancho is right – it doesn’t make it right.

  • picador

    Daithí thinks the SDLP should choose an Irish slogan for their website.

  • abu nicola

    If English was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for all of us.

  • fin

    Pancho, Ireland was actually invaded by the Normans after they had conquered England, roughly 20% of England is still owned by their desendents, the Normans only based their monarchy in England when things got rough on the mainland, Parliment is still opened in Normandy French. The Normans done the same to England as they tried in Ireland, virtually all anglo and saxon names disappeared within 50 years ie Ethelreds etc.

    Regarding languages, in 1880 only 20% of French people spoke French, even today in countries like Spain and Italy the national languages take 2nd place to regional languages, in the USA Spainish is competing with English as the most used. We can only hope no unionist gains a position of power in the EU over languages, or we will all be speaking German in a few years.

  • Freddie

    Great idea! We should have ‘Irish Spoken’ counters in shops, banks etc. All government services, both regional and local, should provide offices using Irish. You should be able to live entirely in an Irish medium from the cradle to the grave.

    Of course the signage for these services will need to be in English so that the Untermenschen can read them and know to stay away.

    However we could colour code the service, perhaps green would be a good choice, and then non-Irish speakers would know to keep away. I can see green benches in public parks where only Irish language newspapers can be read and conversations in Irish only are allowed.

    More obvious division, it’s just what a divided society needs.

    Brave new world here we come.

  • David

    Historically Irish was never used in the common law courts of Ireland.

    The 1737 Act was not aimed at stopping the use of Irish, because Irish was not being used. It was primarily aimed at abolishing the use of Legal French, a kind of Franglais dialect which lawyers had retained from Norman times to mystify the practice of law and which was used to draft laws an pleadings. It also stopped the use of Latin, except for in some Admiralty proceedings.

    It was not a “Penal Law”.

    “To remedy those great mischiefs, and to protect the lives and fortunes of the subjects of this kingdom more effectually than heretofore from the peril of being ensnared, and brought into danger, by forms and proceedings in courts of justice in an unknown language, all writs, process, and returns thereof, and proceedings thereon, and all pleadings, rules, orders, indictments, informations, inquisitions, presentments, verdicts, prohibitions, certificates, and all patents, charters, pardons, commissions, records, judgments, statutes, recognizances, bonds, rolls, entries, fines, and recoveries, and all proceedings relating thereunto, and all proceedings of courts-leet, courts-baron, and customary-courts, and all copies thereof, and all proceedings whatsoever in any courts of justice within this kingdom, and which concern the law and administration of justice, shall be in the English tongue and language, and not in [b]Latin or French[/b], or any other tongue or language whatsoever,…”

  • Keep the Leprehaun language out of British Courts

    What a load of tosh from this Stoope !!!! And for Janet theMule, that famous Irish speaker to harp on….dimmer switch Britishness is what it is really about, not the reincarnation of what is essentially a dead language, expect amongst Republican pigeon Irish activists…..

    As ould Eddie McAteer taught them,

    Burn everything British except their coal
    Only fill in British forms if you get form at the end of it

    So the dole Dole scams, the gangsterism that steals from the British Exchequer are promoted, whilst everything else British is demeaned.

    Remember Gaels….this is British Ulster….keep your Leppy language in your Oirish Republic….

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Damn good post, no 15. Because you have no culture and no sense of identity, don’t piss on the rest.Are you sober now?

  • Terry Cradden

    Ref abu nichola’s great one-liner at 11, above, I vividly recall a classmate at an English language school for service children in Cyprus in the late 1940’s voicing deep disillusionment on being informed that Jesus wasn’t English.


  • Pól Callaghan

    Is mise an duine a bhí ag caint ag an cruinniú Pobail seo mar urlabhraí Mark Durkan agus don SDLP go ginearálta (chuir mé féin in aithe mar Pól Ó Ceallacháin, sic).

    I am the person who made these remarks on behalf of Mark Durkan and the SDLP, at the Pobal event on the 1737 Act that bans Irish from courts.

    A Ghael Gan Náire, tá tú fíor-cheart nó go bhfuil cumhachtaí na cúirteanna fós faoi smacht Westminster. Mar sin, ba mhaith liom a rá go ndúirt mé go mbeadh Mark Durkan mar MP thar a bheith sásta chun bille a chur síos i bParliamente chun an cosc seo a h-aisghairm.

    Ní cuimhníonn mé ráiteas de Sathairn maidir leis an Tionól – ach ar an ábhar sin tá bille eile ann foilsithe ag Dominic Bradley MLA (don Tionól) chun cearta teanga Gaeilge a chur faoi cosaint dlí go ginearálta ( Is soiléir go bhfuil na tograí sin bunaithe ar moladh Pobail chomh maith. Glacaim gan dabhta go raibh sé furasta an miniú sin a bhaint amach as mo úsaid den focal ‘Parliamente’ i ngaeilge – gan stró tá súil agam.

    Gael Gan Náire is correct to state that the courts are regulated under the reserved powers held by Westminster. Therefore, what I said was that Mark Durkan as an MP is willing to table a bill in Parliament to repeal this ban (on Irish in the courts). As far as I recall I did not mention the Assembly on Saturday morning, but on that topic Dominic Bradley MLA has published a bill to provide statutory duties in respect of the Irish language generally, i.e. under the areas of Assembly responsbilility. (an Irish language version is linked to above). Its scope rhymes with the proposals put forward by Pobal.

    I appreciate that some misunderstanding could have arisen from my use of the term ‘Parliamente’, as I was speaking in Irish, to refer to Westminster as distinct from the Assembly, and I hope this post clarifies this.

  • Pol Callaghan

    I seem to have discovered that Slugger doesn’t allow you to put a fada or accent on a vowel in your name, see below.

  • YelloSmurf

    It seems like a good idea in theory that any language (not just English or Irish, but eg Lithuanian, Mandarin, Elvish)could be spoken in court, but there would need to be translations to English since most people in NI speak English, at least as a second language, and many, like myself are VERY monolingual (I tried, but failed, to learn a new tounge). Judges and juries must be able to understand what is going on, so translation would seem to be the way ahead.

  • Zoon

    This is all academic. Article 6 (Right to Fair Trial) of the ECHR that the Human Rights Act of 1998 incorporates into domestic law states, inter alia,

    3 Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:
    (a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;

    (e) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.

    Everything else before this legislation is moot.

  • ”… Therefore, what I said was that Mark Durkan as an MP is willing to table a bill in Parliament to repeal this ban (on Irish in the courts)…”

    Scríobhadh litir do Mark Durkan an mhí seo caite.

  • ggn

    Maith thú a Dhaithí, na habair é, déan é.

    Well done Daithí, do not say it, do it.

  • picador

    An í Esperanto an teanga ar do shíomh Idirlíon, a Dhaithí?

  • Is í. Toisc go bhfuil an blag faoina teangacha Ceilteacha go léir, bainim úsáid as Esperanto mar “lártheanga” de barr a neodrachta.

  • picador

    Thug mé cuairt ar do bhlag cúpla mí ó shin (bhuail mé an nasc ar suíomh Nuacht 24). Nuair a chonaic mé teanga ait lochlannach shíl mé ‘wtf?’ agus d’imigh mé go díreach. Ní fhaca mé Esperanto roimhe – ariamh.

  • ersehole


    if you think that the Gael is going to all this trouble to get Irish accepted in court without Irish being compulsory for judge, lawyers, witnesses, jury, clerk and members of the public gallery, you are mistaken.

    Each member of the court shall have to pass an extensive written and oral exam before being allowed in. They will also have to sing ÓrÓ Sé do bheatha bhaile.

    And if PSNI witnesses haven’t bothered their arse to learn Irish – CASE DISMISSED!

  • picador

    Buíochas a Dhaithí. Mórchuid oibre atá agamsa cheana leis an Ghaeilge. 🙂

  • Zoon

    I suggest an example of the migrant worker and a native one:
    The native worker’s mother tongue could be Polish for example and as such that person may rely on the appropriate laws for assistance; court business is still carried out in the de facto national language of English within the UK and all native workers would be aware of this for they benefit from society an above knowledge of it. Thus it would be absurd to put an Irish speaker who would know English as a first language before another who has not got English as a first language or is poor in it.
    Its enough that the 1737 Act is in abeyance.

  • GGN

    “ts enough that the 1737 Act is in abeyance.”

    It not.

  • Zoon

    OK i had some time to waste. Is the statute you are referring to the Administration of Justice (Language) Act (Ireland) 1737 (c.6)? If so i think French and Latin speakers have more of a case than Irish Gaelic speakers do! 🙂

  • GGN


    I think you need to check out the judgement in the recent Mac Giolla Catháin case.

    The whole point is that the statute was originally an English one which was passed word for word by the old Irish Parliament, ignoring that at the time 90+ of the population spoke nothing but Irish.

  • Darcy Magee

    The facts are that this Act from 1737 does not impact more on French or Latin speakers for three reasons:
    (i) even though those languages are cited specifically it adds “or any other tongue or language whatsoever” so the effect on Irish is nominally no less;
    (ii) Tracey J found in the Mac Giolla Cathain case that the Human Rights Act would entitle any person to use another language in court other than English only if they could not speak English, the effect being that Irish speakers (even native ones) are penalised as they will undoubtedly be also proficient in English
    (iii) Irish is indigenous to Ireland and is therefore incomparable to French or Latin, and this ban has been removed in Wales and Scotland in respect of their Celtic languages. Irish languages speakers are not seeking something less than already happened in Britain. This is a simple matter of civil rights.

    Mac Giolla Cathain is to be applauded for taking this case to clarify the law, and the inadequacy of the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Minority Languages to give effect to Irish speakers basic rights. Interestingly, the Judge said he would not be ruling on whether this statute is discriminatory, for technical reasons. In my view it clearly is.

    Mark Durkan is to be commmended for committing to table a bill in Westminster to remove this ban. If the British government have a shred of respect left for the concept of equality for UK citizens, or any ‘parity of esteem’ for nationalists (who presumably most Irish lanaguage speakers are) then they should back that bill.

  • Zoon

    Thanks GNN and Darcy. I have since looked up the following:

    Caoimhin MacGiolla Cathain, Re Judicial Review [2009] NIQB 66 (8 July 2009)

    I remember the BBC reporting it, or another media, although I was unaware that this thread was about the above. I found it peculiar that instead of quoting domestic law that implements the ECHR the applicant quoted ‘federal’ (sic) law that member states of the EU are obliged to implement subject to derogations, protocols and ‘legally binding agreements’ (sic) that take place.

    I’ll read more of this case and comment on it further.

  • David

    Let us assume for a moment that the “ban” on the use of Irish is removed. What are the consequences?

    If someone decides to sue me and issues the writ in Irish, will I need to get a translator as well as a lawyer? What if there is a conflict between the English translation and the Irish original, which prevails? Will the court office employ a staff of Irish speaking translators, lawyers and judges to deal with the miniscule number of cases every year in Irish? If there are 1000 pages of documents in the court case does the taxpayer foot the bill for translation? If someone sues using Irish to deliberately disadvantage an English speaker does the English speaker just have to put up with it?

    This is a bad idea being pursued for sentimental, not logical reasons.

  • Darcy Magee

    David, while I disagree with your conclusion, you are raising reasonable questions. There are a number of models for the use of various languages within a court system, including many for lesser used ones.

    The point about this Act is that it expressly prohibits use of Irish in the courts here, which is neither acceptable of itself nor equal with other minority languages within the UK. Its effect in respect of Irish has not been overruled by the Human Rights Act or other instruments. That express prohibition should now be repealed.

    The practical implications arising then are a matter of further debate, and would really be the material of an Irish Language Act. What would be clear however is that nobody is suggesting the imposition of Irish on anyone who does not wish to or cannot speak it.

    The jurisprudence from Canada (largely in respect of French and English use but also the use of Innuit languages in the northern provinces) is potentially useful in this respect. The Canadian Supreme Court has held that the serving of papers in one language cannot be used as a device to disadvantage the responding party. In any event, the reasoning in the Mac Giolla Cathain application by Justice Tracey clearly implies that the Human Rights Act (Artice 6 Right to a Fair Trial) would ensure similar protections here.

    So no worries on that score.

    Finally, I would encourage people to look at this in terms of recognising the richness of our society, which is a positive thing for everyone here.