Fired For Speaking Irish In Ireland’s English Only Pub

So in the space of three years we’ve gone from Irish-speaking citizens being arrested by the Gardaí for conversing in Irish to Irish-speaking citizens being forced from a job for conversing in Irish. The news and current affairs website, Tuairisc, reports that a young man from Corca Dhuibhne in County Kerry, a Gaeltacht or hibernophone region on the west coast, was allegedly forced from his job as a barman because he and other members of staff were occasionally communicating with each other in the Irish language.

According to Tuairisc (and other media), Cormac Ó Bruic was warned on the 5th of August by the owner of the Flying Enterprise Complex, a bar and restaurant in Cork city-centre, that the establishment was “English-speaking” only and that the use of his native Irish during working hours was forbidden. Understandably the Gaeltacht man refused to work under the discriminatory conditions placed upon him and other employees at the company and left the premises, taking time to decide his future at the business. Consequently on the 11th of August he was notified by post that he had been given his P45, effectively confirming that his contract of employment had been terminated. In support of the company’s position the proprietor, Finbarr O’Shea, claimed that there had been complaints from customers who felt “uncomfortable” with Irish being spoken in their presence, even to other guests.

The owner of the Flying Enterprise Bar & Restaurant has since stated that his firm employs a multinational workforce and that if staff members were allowed to use their mother tongues the company would be unable to operate. Because of that supposed worry and its function as a “hospitality business” the decision had been taken to make English the only permitted language on the premises, a situation compared to a form of “dress code“. When it was pointed out to Fionnbharr Ó Sé Finbarr O’Shea that Irish was legally the national and first official language of Ireland his dismissive reply was: “We’re all Europeans!”.

Presumably that is strictly English-speaking Europeans.

The behaviour displayed in Cork is disgraceful, creating a hostile working environment for an Irish-speaking individual so that he feels the need to leave his job. It adds further weight to the need for a well-subscribed “fighting fund” for the Irish language which will litigate Anglophone opponents of Hibernophone rights into submission. Equality is never willingly granted by those who control it. It is forcibly taken by those who seek it!

Update: To clarify, Cormac Ó Bruic left his job on the day in question to consider his position when it became clear that no agreement was possible with the management of the Flying Enterprise Complex. The Irish Times has more details:

“Speaking this afternoon, Mr Ó Bruic described how he and his colleagues worked long shifts at the bar but that he had never had any difficulties with the owner.

“He respected me and I respected him. We were very friendly with each other – he had time for me and had faith in my ability to do the job well.”

The Kerry native said Mr O’Shea often heard him speaking in Irish with a colleague but never said anything.

Mr Ó Bruic said he was approached by the owner’s wife on August the 4th who told him he had to stop speaking Irish.

“This surprised me. I put my head down and went back to work,” he said.

The following day, Mr Ó Bruic said he went to work as normal at 5pm and was asked to meet with the owner.

He said Mr O’Shea said he was the director of the company and was giving him an order and that he (Mr Ó Bruic) was expected to obey it.

“I said I wasn’t going to stop speaking in Irish,” Mr Ó Bric said adding that he was then threatened with suspension. Mr Ó Bruic said he challenged the business owner to suspend him but said that he would not stop speaking Irish.

He said Mr O’Shea then demanded Mr Ó Bric return to work.

“I was shocked and upset. No-one should say that to anyone,” he said.

Mr Ó Bruic said he was upset and told him he could not work that night. The bar manager then asked whether he should be included on the following week’s roster, he said.

“I said I needed a week to think about it and said I would get back to them”

Mr Ó Bruic said that before he could, he was subsequently informed in a letter from owner, Finbarr O’Shea on 11th August that he was being given his P45.

According to Mr Ó Bruic, Mr O’Shea said in the letter that he (Mr Ó Bruic) had been warned on August 5th that The Flying Enterprise was “an English speaking business” and he had no permission to speak Irish in the pub.

Mr Ó Bruic said he was told in the letter there had been a number of complaints from customers who felt “uncomfortable” with him speaking Irish in the bar.

He said Mr O’Shea also stated in the letter staff working in the bar and restaurant were multinational and if he gave permission to every staff member working there to speak in their own native mother tongue, “the business couldn’t operate”.”

Update: The management of the Flying Enterprise Complex have released a statement vigorously contesting Cormac Ó Bruic’s version of events last August. In their view the employee was neither fired nor dismissed but instead chose to quit his job before HR procedures had been completed.

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28 comments

  1. “The supremacist behaviour displayed in Cork is disgraceful.”

    I think you mean Corcaigh? 😉

    Seriously, this is disgusting. I’ve been hearing a lot of people here in the U.S. spouting nonsense like Ireland was never a British colony or if it was, it has no effect on today (unlike “real” instances of oppression, like with Native Americans). I want to show all of them this.

    As you say, “Éire Ghaelach, Éire Shaor!”

  2. I suppose nothing should surprise me about Ireland, ¨Out of Ireland, always something incredible¨ ? But really? I doubt you could get away with this even in Wales, which is of course still firmly under ¨John Bull´s Tyranny¨. I wonder, do they have more language rights in practice in the North? Now that would be ironic. Immensely sad, but still oh so Irish 😦

  3. I am certain Mr. Ó Bric will obtain an appropriate barrister, as a matter of fact very likely a number of them have by now offered their services, and I would expect him to win in court. I am sure a myriad of other European languages are spoken behind that bar and the only one offense was taken to was Irish. In my experience back home so far, this has proven true over and over again. Even though the Polish government recently has complained about their citizens being subjected to increased discrimination, I find that the only time you hear “don’t speak that shyte around me,” it refers to Irish and is uttered by someone between 40 and 60. All the while, Arabic, Eastern European languages, French, and German are spoken all around (languages sorted alphabetically to be politically correct). The last time I experienced that was at Dublin Airport at the beginning of the year. When I (quite politely, actually – normally, I am far more cantankerous) mentioned the fact that his diatribe would likely be viewed as racist had he referred to any of the other (non-English) language speakers in such a fashion (thank you ASF – I got that from you), he was first visibly taken back that I spoke American English after just having spoken Irish at length (I learned most of my English in the U.S.), then began to posture as if he was going to become aggressive before his partner scuttled him off. I think that was not for my old and fat arse, but the fact that the person I was speaking to was my neighbor’s about six foot and 15 stone pure muscle nephew, who was picking me up.

    1. ¨I find that the only time you hear “don’t speak that shyte around me,” it refers to Irish and is uttered by someone between 40 and 60.¨

      I wonder, could this have something to do with the way ¨compulsory Irish¨ was taught in schools a few decades ago? It´s so easy for ´forced´ language learning, usually for some necessary (but seemingly useless) qualification, to leave a bad taste in the mouth that can take many years to dissipate.

      1. I had to learn English at school… Compulsory… So did all other Gaeltacht children… Yet do we complain about it? Hated it to be honest

        1. Gabhaibh mo lethsgeul, a Pheig chòir … It´s the tokenism which I think is the problem.

          I was drawing on my own experiences of ´School French´ in the UK, back in the day when all but a tiny handful of UK universities required a foreign language pass for entrance, regardless the subject you were applying to study. So everyone got French drummed into them to be able to pass the exam. A language that in our experience existed only within the covers of some rather uninspiring textbooks and for which we could see no practical use. (This should be sounding familiar to many?) Mostly what this experience taught me was that I wasn´t ¨good at languages¨.

          Now you really did need to know English, as do people all over Europe, for better or worse that´s how the world has turned out. But the sad fact is that most Irish people really have no practical need to know Irish, sad but still largely true. So I don´t really think there´s a comparison.

          So what I´m suggesting is that ´compulsory Irish´ in English speaking parts of Ireland, probably taught rather mechanically with the prime aim of passing an exam, may have been counter-productive and simply left a people of a certain age-group with an vague dislike and hostility to a language that they don´t feel in any way they own.

          Sin mo bheachd-sa, co-dhiù. Ceart no cearr?

      2. I think that is a common excuse, but I find that people who have this attitude towards Irish do not feel comfortable being Irish, and desperately want to be someone else. ASF had an article earlier about an Irish author who claimed she did not learn a single word of Irish in her compulsory classes, for example. I guarantee you that you knew some French after your courses, like it or not, so that is complete BS and based on more than just the normal juvenile resistance to a compulsory subject.

        1. I agree. What mainly put me off French was that after the first year (when we had a charismatic, possibly insane teacher) the lessons became increasing boring and uninspired, and in fact I never even got to sit the O-level … but, as you say, something went in, because as a post-grad student I needed to read material in French, and was soon able to, but then I was using the language as a tool, not as an object of study or admiration for its own sake.

          So yes, I would imagine folk who say the never learned a word of school Irish, must either be stone deaf or B-S-ing. It´s almost as if there´s some sort of mental block or forced amnesia at work here. Seriously though perhaps this is worthy of study. Maybe if we understood what was going on here you´d be some way forward in resolving Ireland´s hang-ups with her past and her native culture.

    2. When he finds that Barrister I hope he speaks fluent Irish and insists on the case being tried ‘as Gaeilge’. There is a precedent for this in a case of a man whose surname was O’Muirhile who was charged with a driving offence and who insisted his case be tried ‘as Gaeilge’ and it was. This case was in Cork as far as I remember and happened about thirty/forty years ago. Its definitely time for another one. How about it Cormac?

  4. I am appalled and disgusted in reading this. The Flying Enterprise need to be ashamed of themselves. Sadly this attitude towards the Irish language still exists. One should not be prevented from speaking Irish during their working hours. Tir gan teanga, Tir gan anam. This is similar to a taxi driver who asked lads from Donegall who were speaking Irish in his taxi to stop it. Boycott this establishment, beir but go deo, Micheal O’Ceallachain.

  5. All my children are fluent Irish speakers. So I fully support the use of the language however I do not support ignorance, bad manners or elitism. I could feel intimidated if workers spoke in their native tongue, knowing I do not speak their language. I have reprimanded Eastern Europeans who have made me feel uneasy at checkouts in Lidl, Aldi or Tesco. So I can appreciate how a tourist might feel excluded in a Cork pub.
    We are Irish, so lets celebrate our language but we must not use it to exclude, gossip, jeer or humiliate our tourist guests.

    1. My sister , fluent gaelic teacher, and I were the last to finish lunch (as we arrived very late) in a kerry pub some time ago . the staff spoke english to us but chatted in gaelic to each other . No need to be suspicious they wanted to ” exclude, gossip, jeer or humiliate our tourist guests”. According to my sister they were talking about what tasks they had to do before their shift finished and what they were going to do afterwards when they were off-duty. She listened very carefully because she was professionally interested in the differences in kerry gaelic and the northern idioms she was used to.

    2. So if you are a tourist in France or Germany, are you intimidated by the French or German bar keeps speaking French or German? Is it elitist, exclusionary, and humiliating for tourists there when the native people discuss their after-work plans in their native language? No, of course not, except for maybe the occasional, easily insulted Meirican. It is actually commonly expected that the folks behind the bar speak their native tongue in their own damn country. Irish is our native language. It is our nation’s first language. This happened in our country. The only jeer, intimidation, and humiliation I see here is that of the native speaker. If you are indeed Irish and feel intimidated because you do not speak enough Irish to follow a little behind-the-counter chatter, maybe it is time to take your children’s example or at least brush up on it a little bit, to be at peace when someone speaks it. I might be an ignorant Irish peasant, but I am not elitist and I do not use the language to exclude anyone, or pursue any ulterior motives. I speak it to other folks who speak it, simply to communicate in my native tongue, as it is convenient to me, and I believe I have the right to do that in my native country.

  6. The fact that a company can claim that this is an HR issue is truly evidence of how far Ireland has to go as a nation to embrace the concept of a bilingual nation. While far from perfect and still subject to frequent grumblings amongst the unilingual anglophones, it is still useful to look at the road Canadians have travelled towards embracing a bilingual national identity. Just a generation ago, you might very well have seen people being dismissed for speaking French. Now, no one in their right mind would consider doing this. It is a tough road to travel and, as can even be seen in this list of comments, people still think that it is rude to speak anything other than English in a crowd of mixed language speakers. The anwer to this is to continue to speak Irish. Eventually people will get used to it.

    1. But do people outside of Quebec really see French as one of their own languages? As far as I know – you can’t just go anywhere in Canada and expect everyone around you to understand French.

      In order for a nation to be bilingual – everyone needs to be fluent in both languages.
      That’s why Latvia is much closer to being a bilingual country despite the constitution saying otherwise. Most of us can speak at least 2 languages.

      Ireland on the other hand isn’t really bilingual any more. Treating the Irish language as useless and inferior has actually made it so. Most of the Irish people don’t see the language as their own – don’t see as something that relates to them. It could not evolve, grow and improve as the primary language of a nation over the years.
      Imagine the number of songs that were never composed in Irish, the number of books that were never written, the number of movies never filmed. (And no – an English monoglot writing a story in English and getting it translated to Irish isn’t the same thing at all – many things get lost in translation and a native Irish speaker could write something a native English speaker never could).
      To be blunt – most people don’t care about shit that was written 200 years ago. They want something more modern, something that they can relate to. I’m not sure if the Irish language can really recover from its “dark ages” that began ~200 years ago.

  7. As some of you may know already my fellow members of the left wing language activist group Misneach organised a protest outside thie business today at lunch time, which was covered by Raidió na Gaeltachta, TG4, srl.

    The Gael Taca centre in Cork are organising another one tomorrow, starting at Gael Taca at 12.45, so if anyone reading this is i gCorcaigh, bí ann! Eolas faoi anseo: https://www.facebook.com/events/285358738510750/

    Tá sé an-tábhachtach go deo go bhfuil sé le feiceáil ag slíomadóirí cosúil leofa seo go bhfuil na Gaeil sástaí troid ar ais in aghaidh na drochíde seo, agus go ndéanann muid níos mó ná díreach a bheith ag casaoid ar líne nuair a chaitear chomh dona sin linn in ár dtír fhéin. Seasaimis an fód!

  8. Don’t any of you let the fact that he had a strop and left of his own accord get in the way of your outrage, will you?
    Just another attention seeker…

  9. I worked as a musician on cruise ships for a few years. Cruise ships usually employ a crew with origins from, on average, 45 countries. Each crew member was told in no uncertain terms to speak only English in passenger areas, as speaking their own native language tended to make the passengers uncomfortable. This I understand, as a matter of business.
    What pains me is that the Irish language is thought of as foreign, and therefore threatening. Even if it’s not spoken in Ireland, should it not be embraced and revered, much as Maori in New Zealand or even Nahuat’l in Mexico? These “Gaelic Indians” are our last link to what it means to be Irish. As much goodwill as there may be in my hometown of Boston and my current home of Brooklyn, for instance, there is no other place in the world that can serve as a home to Irish but Éire. There is no homeland for the Gæl.

    Pig-headedness is surely not only an English quality, but it seems to have subliminally infected the Sasanéirennach after 800 years.

    Saor 7 Gaelach

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