No ‘failte’ for the Irish language

Daily Ireland
8 Feb 2005

Irish language activists have criticised the PSNI for
not including the native tongue on multi-lingual
posters welcoming visitors to police stations.
The posters are in the reception area of every station
open to the public in the North of Ireland. They bid
welcome to visitors in 34 different languages but not
Gaeilgeoirí are now calling for the posters to be
taken down and replaced with a new version featuring
the Irish language.
Their campaign has won the backing of a prominent SDLP
politician who said he was “surprised” by the
exclusion of Irish.
SDLP assembly member Alban Maginness said,
“This is a strange position which I thought the PSNI
would have responded to by now. I welcome the review
of this poster and I look forward to seeing the Irish
language used on the next version. I also hope
Irish-language activists can sit down with the PSNI to
discuss their concerns.”
Marcus Mac Ruairí, who represents Pobal - the umbrella
group for Irish-language organisations in the North -
was scathing in his criticism of the poster.
He said, “The law states the British government and
all its agencies are obliged to promote native
languages and to be proactive in creating
opportunities for its use in public life. However, the
law doesn’t impose any such obligation on non-native
minority languages.
“While I welcome the fact that other minority
languages have been given some recognition and that
these linguistic communities need a service, this
doesn’t affect the obligations the British government
and subsequently the PSNI have to fulfil in respect of
A spokesperson for the PSNI said, “The poster comes in
a range of languages to enable police to make an
initial point of contact with members of ethnic
communities who cannot speak English. We believe that
Irish does not fall into this category.”
The spokesperson also confirmed that the poster is
subject to review.
However, this did little to quell the anger of Mr Mac
Ruairí, who described the PSNI claim about catering
for non-English speakers as a “red herring”.
He added, “At a recent language-rights conference,
international linguistic expert Dr Ferdinand de
Varennes said that citing such an excuse as a pretext
for not providing a service in Irish was to completely
misread the obligations the British government and the
PSNI have under both the European Charter [for
Regional and Minority Languages] and the Good Friday
“The Good Friday Agreement recognises that linguistic
diversity is ‘part of the cultural wealth of the
island of Ireland’. It also points out that the Irish
language, Ulster Scots and the languages of the
various ethnic communities should command respect,
understanding and tolerance.”

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