Current Affairs The Irish Language - An Ghaeilge

Arrested For Speaking Irish – Welcome To Anglo-Ireland!

An Ghaeilge
An Ghaeilge!

Seán Ó Cuirreáin, an Coimisinéir Teanga or the Language Commissioner, released his Annual Report for 2012 at an event in Galway yesterday and it has proven to be yet another dreadful year for the advancement of civil rights for Irish-speaking citizens in Ireland (you can read last year’s 2011 Report here). 2012 saw the highest number of complaints yet, 756 in total, the vast majority relating to practices or services provided by state bodies which discriminate against Irish speakers.

Among the more notable incidents was the arrest by an Garda Síochána in Dublin of a young man who replied in Irish to questions put to him in English by the Gardaí. Though completely innocent of any crime, and later released without charge, he was taken in handcuffs to a Garda station and held in custody until an Irish-speaking Garda could be found to interview him. Again, as the Language Commissioner makes clear, this man, a citizen of Ireland, was completely innocent of any offence and was detained in custody because he chose to speak in Irish when questioned; as is his legal right under the Constitution of Ireland.

“Senior management at An Garda Síochána are organising an overhaul of procedures for dealing with the public through Irish following an investigation by An Coimisinéir Teanga into an incident in Dublin where a young man, who attempted to conduct his business through Irish when stopped by Gardaí in relation to a road traffic matter, found himself arrested and escorted in handcuffs to a Garda station where he was detained until a Garda was found who could deal with him through Irish.

An Coimisinéir Teanga found that An Garda Síochána had failed in this instance to comply with a statutory commitment which recognises the right of the public to conduct business with the force in either official language, Irish or English.

An Coimisinéir Teanga noted a Garda attitude in his investigation, notwithstanding the constitutional status of Irish, that Irish speakers should be dealt with as if they were speakers of a foreign language. The discourse during the investigation placed “using Irish” and “dealing with foreign nationals” in the same space, he said. The person detained in the case was not involved in an accident nor were there any allegations made concerning speeding or driving under the influence of alcohol.”

Not so much Ireland 2012 as Ireland 1912. Among the main abuses noted in the report for last year are:

“…756 cases of difficulties or problems accessing state services through Irish – the largest number of complaints from the public to the Office since its establishment.

A total of 13 formal investigations were commenced during 2012. Findings of breaches of individual elements of language legislation were made against An Garda Síochána; the Department of Justice and Equality; the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government; Ordnance Survey Ireland; the Health Service Executive; the Central Bank of Ireland; the National Transport Authority; the University of Limerick; Ennis Town Council; Donegal County Council; and Kildare County Council.

“2012 was not a vintage year for the promotion of the Irish language in the public sector, and for every one step forward there appeared to have been two steps backwards,” according to An Coimisinéir Teanga.

While statistics from the most recent Census showed a positive trend from the previous one, with a 7% increase in the number of people who have Irish and those who use it daily, there was considerable concern among Irish speakers about the future of the Irish language and serious apprehension about the State’s efforts in its protection and promotion.

Three quarters of language schemes (statutory language plans) agreed for state bodies under the Official Languages Act had expired without renewal by the end of 2012 with a quarter of them out of date for three years or more.

“Only 9 language schemes were agreed or renewed during 2012, and at that annual rate of renewal the current schemes might not be fully replaced for twelve years,” said An Coimisinéir Teanga.

In 10 other cases, more than 6 years have elapsed since the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht requested state bodies to prepare draft language schemes but they remain to be agreed.

A further significant step was taken during 2012 that could prove a dangerous precedent with regard to the language scheme system: for the first time ever, a scheme was amended to cancel an obligation that had previously been confirmed when a member of the public complained that the state body in question was not in compliance with this obligation.”

In other words the institutions of the Irish state are actively and knowingly breaking the law in regard to their legal obligations under the Official Language Act of 2003. Or where they cannot breach the law (with apparent impunity) they are twisting or amending the law to suit themselves.  But then the Irish state as a whole under the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government is in the process of systematically rolling back a decade’s worth of civil rights legislation for Irish-speaking citizens in Ireland while starving Irish-speaking communities across the country of resources and legal protection.

One wonders how far all this has to go before the institutional discrimination against Irish-speakers that permeates the anglophone culture of the Irish state is finally tackled head on? Or do the Irish-speaking citizens of this nation need their own Derry March of 1968 or their own Burntollet? Will it take a Gaeilgeoirí Battle of the Bogside before anyone will take notice?

But then some would love to see the Irish-speaking population beaten into the ground. Just look to the Comments section of the Irish Independent or the online Journal. So many anglophone voices filled with subliminal violence, hatred, discrimination and racism. As I said, beaten into the ground.

The 2012 Annual Report by An Coimisinéir Teanga can be read in full here (PDF). More analysis on the report and its conclusions by Eoin Ó Riain here.


We Shall Overcome - Civil Rights In Ireland - The 1960s
We Shall Overcome – Civil Rights In Ireland – The 1960s

Update 23.10, 13/03/2013: Ever feel like you are under attack? Perhaps because you are.

Update 13.10, 14/03/2013: Okay. There has been a lot of hate-messages coming my direction in relation to this article. Some of it directly via email, Twitter or Facebook. Some of it in the Comments facility provided by the blog. I certainly seem to have annoyed a lot of anglophone people in Ireland by highlighting the erosion and abuse of civil rights for Irish-speaking citizens in this country. Who knew so many English-speaking Irish people identified with English colonial ancestors? Who knew that so many  English-speaking Irish people regarded the pre-English Irish-speaking population as “uncivilized”, “barbarians”, “savages” and “animals”? What does that say about their ancestry?

There have been several threatening messages or Comments. Rather silly ones to be honest, not to be taken seriously. And a lot of stuff about Jews and Native Americans that would put the KKK to shame. I’ve passed the less extreme Comments. The full-on Neo-Unionist and Neo-Nazi ones are in the moderation queue.

Thanks to the many, many people on Twitter and Facebook who sent private messages of support and I understand why you didn’t feel free to make them public (for obvious reasons). Thanks also to the emailers and the regular WordPress posse.

36 comments on “Arrested For Speaking Irish – Welcome To Anglo-Ireland!

  1. So what, in your opinion, was the point of the arrest of the young man in Dublin? Was it to cow him because he dared to speak Irish; fear that he might be a radical; or simple harassment?

    And what do you think is the motivation for the overall pushback against Irish speakers? This sort of thing doesn’t happen in a vacuum.


    • All of the above, is the honest answer. I’ve experienced it myself on the few occasions I’ve had the temerity to speak in Irish to a Garda. Even giving my Irish name and surname while speaking English drew a heavy and dramatic response with an obvious change in body language from friendliness to hostility.

      Speaking Irish in Ireland makes you a target. It’s that simple. The irony being that those who oppose the language (or more honestly oppose those who speak the language) claim that there are no Irish-speakers in Ireland.

      Why would there be when speaking Irish gets you accosted in the street, asked to leave a restaurant, harassed or bullied in your place of employment or arrested by the forces of supposed law and order?!


  2. These subversives! Well really! OK enough satire did you read about Maire Nic Bhaird (Mary Ward one does not need a degree in Mod European Languages to get that one)? Arrested by PSNI/RUC in Belfast for not giving her name in English (Massah) possession of an irregular verb? Sinn Fein had no answer for me on that – and Passport Office in Dublin wants 2 yrs proof of name as Gaelige! Contra ECHR?


    • I wasn’t aware of the latter. That can’t be legal? There is definitely a test-case there to be taken. I was under the impression that everyone had a right to have a passport with their names in Irish. It’s getting worse not better.

      As a friend said to me, what makes the difference between civil rights for the Irish Nationalist minority in the North of Ireland and the Irish-speaking minority in the rest of Ireland? A kilo of Semtex…


  3. Here’s a reason. The guy could speak English, but insisted on speaking Irish to the Garda, just to be a prick about it. No wonder he pissed off the Garda. The vast majority of Gardaí (along with the rest of the population) cannot speak Irish (the census figure is a blatant lie), and have no interest in speaking Irish. There’s no point in pretending otherwise. And with the type of people promoting Irish, such as on this website, it’s not going to change any time soon. Deal with it.


  4. Dublin Fusilier

    The guy who refused to speak in English (the one and only language of Ireland) deserved a lot more than a night in the cells. The guards should have given him a bloody good hammering to boot. I’m sick to death along with 99% of the Irish people of the 1% minority who stubbornly cling to the Aboriginal Gaelic language. If you want to speak it go live in the Reservations along with the other few thousand natives were you belong. You can play at being Celts for all we care. Meanwhile the REAL Irish people of 21 st century Ireland will be getting on with our lives in ENGLISH.
    I see from you’re site that you love American Indians too. No surprise there.
    English won Irish lost.


    • You have no business calling yourself ‘Dublin Fusilier’. The real Dublin Fusiliers were not against the Irish language. Mind you, they didn’t sit on their arses and type shit into a computer all day like you.


      • Well said Christopher Kealy!
        I’m still laughing my arse off at that short sharp riposte!
        You fairly have the gift of bardic satire….thanks for the best laugh of the day!


    • Why even identify as “Irish”? You seem to be of the mind set that Ireland would have been better off as part of the UK without any trace of Irish culture or language. I am not sure what your definition of “winning ” is but despite the language issue, Ireland is an independent state and is no longer under the British rule. You were aware of this though I am sure.


  5. Son Of Loyal Hibernia

    I came to this site through Facebook and I see it on Twitter too. Im glad I did so I can see the propaganda machine of the Gaelic minority at work. I speak English my ancestors spoke English and I’m a proud descendant of English people who came to Ireland in the 1600 to civilize Ireland. And that includes bringing the world tongue that is English. Gaelic is a backward language. That is reflected in the culture and mindset of those who speak it. The militant Gael who runs this site is an obvious throwback. Gaels may be the native people of this country but so what? So are Native Americans in the United States or Aborigines in Australia. And look at the state they are in. We are an English speaking Ireland English in language and culture and better for it. Ban the language from public life take it out from our society and let the native Irish go live in their reservations until they too disappear. That is the final solution we need for the countrys Irish problem!



    Gaelic is a dead language along with those who spoke it. Only a few hobbyists and ‘enthusiasts’ insist on carrying on the Gaelic dream of the 1916 terrorists. Its not even a real language but made up collection of 19th century dialects. Most of which are really English anyway but given fake spelling and grammers. The Irish are as English as any person in England now days. In fact we are culturally British and American part of a worldwide English speaking civilization in which we play are fair share. Gaelic zealots are dangerous hangovers from the murder campaign of 1916 to 1922. They are savage in language and mentality. Ireland is English speaking. Gaels are holding us back wasting billions on trying to breathe life into a dead race of people.


    • I think you’ll find that English is the mongrel language, that has itself, borrowed extensively from French, Latin, German and indeed Gaelic.
      Before you comment on anyone else’s spelling and grammar, you should make sure that your own command of such things is watertight.
      It’s grammar, not “grammer” and hundreds, not “hundreads”. Your punctuation is also abysmal….So much for the civilizing influence of English.


      • Another anglophone supremacist singing from the same hymn-sheet. This one with the power of a national newspaper behind him.

        And note the Comment beneath the article by Kevin Myers: “MaryMJ: Emigration is wonderful; it gets you away from the idiocy of enforced Erse.”

        Erse? As I keep saying, study the words and terms used by the English language fundamentalists in Ireland. These people do not exist in isolation. Nor does their bigotry.


  7. Wow nice comments from the anglo supremacist here. Thinking yourself superior for speaking the easiest language to learn in the world, must not have a lot going for you to be needing such a simple thing to prop you up.

    You’re bigoted, racist and narrow minded. You can spit on your ancestry, looks like you’re coming from a long line of Uncle Toms anyway.

    Bunch of lackeys who feel entitled because they feasted on the crumbs from the table of the master, mimicking his manners and learning his language to serve him better.

    Stop calling yourselves Irish then, ”The english won” ?? you’re the ones who’ve surrendered before the game was over.

    ”…and they act surprised when we put one of them in the boot of a car”-Pierre Falardeau.


    • Thanks for the Comment, Matt. I agree with you.

      I’ve taken the decision not to engage with the more racist Comments expressed here. Instead I’ll let people decide for themselves their own views on the folks leaving them and the culture in Ireland that has given rise to such bigotry.

      What I can say is if you think these are bad you should view the five Comments I deleted. I am struck by the same phrases coming up again and again. “Boggers”, “bog-wogs”, “parasites”, “monkeys”, “primates”, “animals”. Is there a lexicon of anti-Irish abuse somewhere that all these people are being brainwashed with? If so it must have its origins in the 19th century and bear the hallmark of Punch Magazine on it.


  8. Not A Bogger

    Ha the Aboriginal Irish now have their own website to promote their propaganda. In the English language of course so that the 98% of people in Ireland who are native English speakers can actually understand the bullshit they are selling. Makes a change from 1% of the population speaking to another 1%. This is the Republic of Ireland. We are Irish. English speaking Irish. That is natural selection.


  9. Soiléir go leor gur an duine céanna atá taobh thiar de roinnt de na postálacha ó ‘dhaoine’ éagsúla. Pearsantachtaí cosúla iad mar sin féin. Míthuiscint uafásach ann, leis.


    • The first two Comments that were posted I thought the same but all the Comments come from different email/Gravatar/FB accounts and IP addresses which show on the blog moderation panel. I suspect more a group of people who know each other. The language/attitudes are the same as I said in a Reply above. In fact a LOT of the phrases and terms are similar to anti-Irish stuff I’ve seen on, the Irish Indo and just more explicitly.abusive.

      The “Gaelic” as opposed to “Irish” is standard language for the forums on Along with the “Gaylick”. So maybe that is where they come from?


      • Hello Séamas,
        I am not sure how all of these comments affect you or if they make you feel like a foreigner in your own land, but just to give the other side of things- I have been learning Irish for about 1 year and a half and thanks to the availability in Dublin I am on my way to becoming fluent. There are actually allot of young people like myself who I have met in Dublin and other counties who, through whatever cause taken it upon themselves to learn Irish again. Although I have come across the ridiculous nonsense that you most likely have, I have seen that the other side which, separated from the “Ireland of the future” journalists and quivering politics that is actually just annoyed that they do not speak Irish-I have seen the other side.
        Indeed it seems that the experience I have had with the Irish who hate Irish is one of fear on their part. They seem horrified by the possibility that they do not speak their native tongue but instead one that was forced upon their ancestors. I do not beat that drum personally because I do not feel the need but I can honestly say that the experience I have had with people was one of them feeling intimidated by these truths. I am in my late 20’s and have taken upon myself to speak our tongue and its undertaking was in fact something that made me realize that I too had a certain fear of no speaking our language before I started- it is however the manner in which it was expressed that was different in my and allot of peoples cases.


        • Thanks for the Comment, Jack. I found the response to last week’s posts a wee bit intense, hence the break for a few days. An Sionnach Fionn is a personal blog and though a lot of politics and current affairs gets discussed its more simply a reflection of whatever interests (or enrages) me at the moment. It is not intended as a campaigning website. There are no organisational links to anyone. Just me and my soapbox.

          However every now and again I touch a nerve and something goes viral. Usually it is political stuff, though plenty of cultural items have been popular too. Unfortunately the post above drew the attention of the more extreme fringe of the anti-Irish (or pro-English) lobby in Ireland. Hence the racist commentary (some of which I allowed to be published to illustrate the bigotry that is out there) and the barrage of angry emails, Facebook and Twitter messages. It wasn’t so much what was said (or threatened) as simply having to sieve through it all. Exhausting.

          I’m very glad to hear of your success with Irish. As I always point out my own ability with Irish is negligible, despite years of off-and-on learning. I simply don’t have a mind for learning languages. Partly that accounts for my support for new and existing Irish speakers so that they don’t have the same frustrated experiences that I have had down through the years.

          I also try to bring non-Irish speakers into the debate over Irish language rights simply because I believe most Irish people have a positive view on the language and wish it to prosper. Even if they are solely English-speakers they regard the Irish language as their language too. Hence the many Anglophone parents who send their children to Irish-medium schools. We need to unite Irish-speakers and English-speakers in this enterprise, not least in facing down the small but influential Anglophone extreme who regard Irish-speakers as second-class citizens with second-class rights.

          In all honesty last week did indeed leave me feeling like a foreigner in a foreign land. Your Comment and those of several others have helped lift that gloom somewhat. Go raibh maith agat.


          • Fáilte romhat.
            I have to say since I subscribed to this blog I have always found everything you write to be not only helpful but very informative too. Most of the issues you discuss are not covered by mainstream newspapers and if they are, they are discussed with a heavy bias.
            In my experience although I am certainly not as well versed in Irish as I am in English I enjoy speaking Irish much more and look for opportunities to speak it all of the time.
            It seems a book of revelation-esque divide is coming in Ireland regarding our language: There are those whom have hated it thus far and are attempting to pull the reigns of power towards its destruction, and then those of us who want to be fluent enough to perhaps even replace our use of English with our native tongue.
            It would seem as though although the media/government is going against its use, the everyday folk are perhaps gaining an interest which I believe is stronger than an institutional advocacy which has not thus far been terribly effective.
            Maybe all of it will work out for the better despite the current appearances.


            • I quite agree with you, Jack. There does seem to be something looming on the horizon in terms of a make-or-break situation for the Irish language and those who live their lives through it or who wish to do so. I certainly have never known it so bad with the levels of animosity towards Irish-speaking citizens in both the press and the general public taking even me by surprise of late. Perhaps it has always been there but the growth of the internet has allowed it to gain a greater airing? Anglophone bigots now seem to be far more vocal and all but omnipresent in the media and online.

              Talking to people who have been active in the Irish-speaking community for decades one hears time and time again a real sense of fear and apprehension about the future. A sense of a community, a population, under attack from forces far greater than it. That, by all accounts, was never there before.

              Something is rotten in the state of Ireland.


  10. Arresting the bloke for speaking Irish looks bad but if the Dublin Gardai do not understand you, then technically, you are impeding the Gards in the execution of their duties. So they brought him in to an Irish-speaking Gard (or whoever) to allow him to exercise his right to communicate with the Gardai in Irish. They just could not do it on the street, that’s all. As for some of the tasteless comments posted above about Irish being a ‘dead dream’ and speakers of it being like ‘rutting abos’ and ‘bogger niggers’, well, a small country on the edge of Europe should have its own language. It’s part of your identity. Don’t listen to some of the idiots on here.
    Grainne Seoige and her sister don’t look like rutting abos to me. By the way, I’m English.


  11. Mekonged

    Just read the Myers article and his praise of Declan Lynch. So just wonderin is this the same D Lynch who started his career as a rather nationalistic, risque reporter, prepared to challenge the Section 31 whitewash of journalistic integrity in the paradigm of virtue that was the The Irish Republic in the early 90s. Then a move to the Indo and, well, we can see what happens to integrity and how its respected, as he morphs, in a few short weeks to uphold the only consensus, that being, the undermining of Irishness which the mainstream of Southern Elite permit and pursue. Standardisation of thought, corruption of values to allign with apology for nationalistic expression and they dare to call republicans facists!

    By the way, your winning An Sionnach Fionn, why else are these reactionaries so embittered and been let off the lease. Scotland when it votes 45-55% yes will be lost or as good as out of their influence. Then the ‘reform’ movement of RDE, Myers, Indo and assorted emasculated sychopants will be exposed for the poison of shame that they have inculcated within the polity and psyche of Ireland for the last two generations.


    • I must be doing something right to draw the reaction this article did. Especially the repeated question of “Why are you broadcasting this to the world?”. In other words we want to discriminate against Irish-speakers in Ireland but we don’t want anyone outside of Ireland knowing it. It’s our dirty little secret. Anglophone paranoia bears more than a passing resemblance to the old culture of the southern United States. With the same revisionist impulses to. The slaves in the South were happy-go-lucky until the Northerners stirred them up!

      Thanks for the Comments, much appreciated.


  12. Gaeilgeoir na Fionlainne

    I am from Finland. I speak and write Irish better than most Irish people do. I also speak and write it better than English. I think it is entirely appropriate that Irish people should keep their language alive and try to revive it. I am familiar with most of the literature written in Irish by native speakers, as well as some of the best books written in Irish by non-natives. For me personally, it is the most important thing in life to learn the Irish of the native speakers, emulate it, and write readable, interesting, and entertaining books in an Irish as similar to that of the best native writers as possible. As my friends know, I practise what I preach. I have thrown away a promising academic career in order to commit myself fully to the cause of the Irish language. Why? Because Irish is an interesting, rich, and cultural language worth preserving and developing further. As I happen to know six other languages fluently, I think mine is an informed opinion.


    • Thanks for taking the time to Comment. I really appreciate views from outside of Ireland. It is too easy to get trapped inside the Ireland bubble and forget that outside of this country and the Anglophone world multilingual nations and communities are the norm.

      I know in Finland there are some debates over the teaching of Swedish in schools as a second language but it is still done and done effectively. Likewise the progress of Sami rights is impressive and something we could learn from (though still on-going).

      On a personal level Finland and the Finnish people have always impressed me. I can honestly say that I wish we were more Finn-like as a nation 😉

      If you ever feel like writing an article (in Irish, English or Finnish) about your views on the Irish language or any aspect of language rights (or Finnish culture/current affairs in general) drop me a line at the email address on the blog “frontpage”. I’d be glad to publish it.


  13. An Ghaeilge abú ! Agus suas leis a’ Ghàidhlig ! Damn those Gaelophobic bigots i nAlbain agus i nÉirinn ! Sin an méid…o sea, agus is Gearmánach mé ó thús !

    Cum ort, a Shionnaich Fhinn! Na gèill! Is math a rinn thu!
    Beir bua,
    Acsail Òg


  14. Donna MacIver

    As a Canadian I can attest to the fact that yes, the Native population speaks English, but as a whole they deeply regret the near loss of their many ancient languages, and many are working hard with elders to record them and teach them to children and adults alike before they are lost forever. I don’t understand how anyone can think that there is anything wrong with keeping a language alive, no matter what language it is!


    • Agreed. Some people positively delight in the extermination of languages, cultures and ethnicities – except their own. Human nature rarely fills one with much hope.


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