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News :: International
Last Penal Law Upheld by Northern Ireland’s High Court
17 Jul 2009
The last vestige of the anti-Irish Penal Laws has recently been upheld by the High Court in Northern Ireland, in spite of both the St Andrew's Agreement and the European Charter on Lesser-Used Languages.
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Caoimhín Mac Giolla Catháin, a member of the Shaw's Road Gaeltacht community in west Belfast and a member of the Irish-language Reggae band, Bréag, applied for a for a drinks licence in Irish for a concert in the Cultúrlann in West Belfat’s Falls Road.

His application was denied pursuant to the Administration of Justice (Language) Act Ireland 1737 which states "all proceedings in courts of justice within this kingdom shall be in the English language".

Last week, the Court upheld this denial.

Interestingly, Daniel O’Connell, “The Liberator”, whose efforts brought about the the repeal of the Penal Laws with the “Catholic Emanicipation” of 1829, was opposed to reviving the Irish language, in spite of being a native speaker himself. The 1737 Act is the only Penal Law still in effect 180 years later.

According to historian Dr Eamon Phoenix, the 1737 Act could "be viewed as a piece of discriminatory legislation directed at the mother tongue of the mass of the Irish population at that time. It is therefore the cultural equivalent of the penal laws.”

In response to this ruling, the Irish-language group, Na Ceithearna Coille, are considering direct action along the line of their previous campaigns.

Plans are underway to file an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Further information:

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