Thursday, 3 June 2010

Gavelled by Prejudice

The BBC reports that the Court of Appeal has rejected Caoimhín Mac Giolla Catháin's attempt to have the Administration of Justice (Language) Act 1737 declared unlawful.

Lord Justice Girvan said: "Conferring on individual litigants a right at their option to convert court forms from English into a language not understood by the vast majority of intended recipients would frustrate the interests of justices [sic]."

Yet any amendment to forms hitherto has quite obviously been done in protest; in practice, this case was about the right to avail oneself of services through the medium of Irish. Had it been successful, forms would almost certainly have been issued in bilingual format rather than separate English and Irish versions. For many people, the Irish version of their name is the sole legally valid one, and, with the aid of the simple postcode, the Royal Mail already deals with letters addressed in the language. Much of the rest of the form could no doubt have been substituted with tick-boxes.

The Act was challenged because it impeded the right to use the oldest language of the island in one's dealings with public authorities — and upheld by the local establishment for the same reason.

Similar legislation has already been repealed in Scotland and Wales. Once more, Northern Ireland is "a place apart".

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