Category: Archive

Belfast lawyer talks about Irish language case on NYC visit

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

His challenge on behalf of a young Irish speaker was dismissed. Flanigan has since lodged an appeal that has yet to be to be heard.
Meanwhile, the lawyer took the issue to New York last week, where he spoke at a meeting at Glucksman Ireland House and met with local officials and members of the Irish-American community.
“For that type of legislation to be still in place is hugely disappointing. But when you combine it with the fact that a decision’s been made not to have an Irish language act leaves Irish speakers in the North in a position which is almost unique within the islands of Ireland and Britain,” Flanigan said, referring to a announcement made by Edwin Poots, as minister of the environment.
“Welsh speakers have the benefit of the Welsh language act and Gaelic speakers in Scotland have the benefit of the Gaelic language act. And obviously the position in the Republic is that Irish is the first national language,” he said. “The Irish speakers from the North have been excluded from all of that.”
Flanigan, who is married with children, is himself a fluent Irish speaker and has been involved in the development of area surrounding the Falls Road known as the Gaeltacht Quarter, where he has worked for more than 25 years.
He was first exposed to the language at his Christian Brothers high school in Belfast. He went on to study for his law degree at Queen’s University. During his career, he has acted in many human rights challenges. He was also well-known for work on behalf of Irish language groups even before his challenge to the courts ban, which dates back to the Penal Laws.
“It has to be in a situation where it has parity of esteem, which people talk about, with the English language in Northern Ireland,” he said. “And that includes access to the courts, that includes access to public administration. “These things happen in Wales and everybody seems able to accommodate it and it doesn’t create a big problem,” said Flanigan, who teaches public law at the University of Ulster Jordanstown and also sits on the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal.
Although interest in the Irish language is generally identified with the nationalist community, there has always been some interest in it over the years in the unionist community. Flanigan pointed out that some of the most prominent founders of the language revival movement a century ago were Protestant.
“The problems that an Irish speaker faces in the North are faced by that Irish speaker whether or not he’s from a unionist background or a nationalist background,” he said.

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