[Sinn Fein]

13th December 2002

Government lacks political will to defend Irish speakers Constitutional rights - Ó Snodaigh

Sinn Fein spokesperson on Cultúr, Gaeilge agus Gaeltacht Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has accused the Government of lacking the political will to uphold the Constitutional rights of Irish speakers, following the defeat of a Sinn Fein amendment to the Statute Law Restatement Bill, which reached Report and Final Stages in the House today. The amendment was defeated in a narrow vote, 37 to 10, with Fine Gael deputies abstaining and Labour deputies absenting themselves from the chamber.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

I tabled a simple, but very significant amendment that sought to acknowledge and protect the equal rights of Irish speakers to access legislation in their own language. The Sinn Fein amendment would have required all restatements of the law to be made available simultaneously in both official languages, in keeping with Constitutional guarantees. Currently, Irish speakers cannot access all legislation in the Irish language, as there is a long backlog in translation and much of the new legislation is published in English only. This is discriminatory and unconstitutional, and was recently criticised by the Supreme Court in Ó Beoláin v. Fahy. 

We commend the hard work that translators are doing, and recognise that some progress has been made, however it is our position that extra resources are needed to clear the translation backlog. The practice of monolingual publication of new legislation must end, and all restatements of the law should also be made available in both official languages simultaneously.

The rights of Irish speakers have been denied historically and are being denied still. Whenever we raise this issue, we are told that while we are technically correct , Irish speakers equal rights cannot be upheld in practice because it will cost too much. I do not accept this. Constitutionally accepted equal rights cannot be held hostage to the bottom line. If there is a political will, there is a way, but this Government and its predecessors since at least 1980 have lacked the political will. If this Government can prioritise the protection and massive overfunding of Horse and Greyhound racing, they can find the funds to protect the rights of Irish speakers.

Ultimately, there is no reason that this amendment should not have been accepted by the Government and passed by the House. The fact that Fine Gael and Labour deputies abstained from voting on the amendment presumably for petty political reasons, and despite having raised similar concerns during the debate is a disgrace.

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