Dáil Éireann - Volume 2 - 20 March, 1923
DAIL IN COMMITTEE. - STATUS OF THE IRISH LANGUAGE.
The PRESIDENT The PRESIDENT
The PRESIDENT: I move the adjournment of the Dáil until 3 o'clock to-morrow to enable Deputy Gavan Duffy to raise his question.
SEOIRSE GHABHAIN UI DUBHTHAIGH SEOIRSE GHABHAIN UI DUBHTHAIGH
SEOIRSE GHABHAIN UI DUBHTHAIGH: Eist, a Chinn Chomhairle, le droch sgéal a fuair mé san pháipéar coichthís ó soin. Do leigheas ins an bpáipéar go raibh cúis mhoir os chomhair na h-Árd-Cúirte. D'iarradh ar an offigeach páipéar i nGaedhilg a ghlacadh. Acht éist leis seo: “Mr. Maguire said he would not accept it without direction. He took the directions in his Chambers. The Lord Chief Justice is Head of the Judicature, and he said it could be filed if it was accompanied by an exactly similar affidavit in English, bearing the filing stamp also.” Fuaireamar sgéal ba mheasa ó shoin. Bhí sé le léigheamh againn sa pháipéar Lá Fhéile Pádraig gur eirigh an cúis leis an Árd-Bhreitheamh. Dubhairt an Árd-Chúirt fhéin sin—an t-Árd-Bhreitheamh céanda agus beirt eile—go raibh an ceart ag an Árd-Bhreitheamh. Anois, féach ar an mBun-Reacht. 'Sé seo an dligh atá ceapaithe 'san Bhun Reacht:
“Sí an Ghaedhilg teanga Náisiúnta Shaorstáit Eireann, ach có-aithneofar an Béarla mar theanga oifigiúil.”
'Sí an Ghaedhilg an teanga náisiúnta, ach mar sin féin, séantar an teanga orrainn  agus ní tugtar Cothrom na Féinne dí ins an Árd-Chúirt fhéin. “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” An lá a ghlacamar leis an mBun-Reacht do chuireamar i n-iúil do'n tsaoghal Fodhlach i d-tosach báire gur ab í teanga na nGaedheal an teanga náisiúnta. Shaoil na Breitheamhain sin nach rabhamar i n-dáiríribh. Bhí sé i g-ceist aca nach rabhamar ach dul chun dalladh mullóg a chur ar na daoini simplí a though mar Teachtaí sinne.
An raibh an ceart aca? Le linn an chogaidh do bhí ar siubhal do chuir na buic mhóra sin a ngeall ar an taoibh a shaoil siad a ghnothóchadh; do chailleadar an báire, ach, má chailleadar féin, tá siad níos udarásaighe indiú ná ariamh —níos udarásaighe ná bhíodar faoi shean-Reacht an Ghaill Féin. Tá an tír uilig faoi smacht aca go fóill, agus feicthear dobhtha gur féidir leo—cosantóirí an Bun-Reachta, mar dheadh!—an Bun-Reacht féin a chur ar leathaoibh mara bhfeileann sé dobhtha.
Cé a thóigfeadh sin ortha? Cad a dhéanas mac a chuit ach luch a mharbhadh? Is orrainn fhéin atá an locht toisg go dtugamar an cead sin dobhtha. D'fhágamar an tír faoi n-a g-ceannas, daoine nach bhfuil aon mheas ná aon taobhadh ag Gaedheal ar bith leo. Agus táimid ag ioch go géar as margheall ar sin.
Ní féidir leo a bheith dílis do chúis na Gaedhilge; bíonn siad ar nós na g-cnoc árd sin a mbíonn na néalta go siorruidhe ar a mbarr. Bíonn, agus beidh go deo, ceo dhubh dhorca ar a g-cuid súil, ceo na n-árd-smaointe a bhíos ag eirghe in a g-cinn aca i measg na réalta. Má tugtar cead a g-ceann do na sean-Bhreitheamhain béidh sé fánach againn rialtas a ghabháil chugainn fhéin; agus tá an Bun-Reacht féin bréagach san méid a fhógríonn sé gur ab í an Ghaedhilg an teanga náisiúnta. Má leantar do'n chúis seo déanfaidh fóbhreitheamhain agus Iúistisí aithris ar an droch-bhreith sin. Agus ní h-é sin amháin, ach cuirfear ar leath-taoibh Reacht na n-Gaedheal chun Reacht na nGall a bhuanú go doimhin in a h-áit. Agus is sinne—Teachtaí muinntir na h-Eireann—atá cionntach ann.
Níl ach fíor-bheagán Gaedhilgeoirí annso idir Airí agus Teachtaí, a thuigfeas an Ghaedhilig agus go bhfuil grádh acu don Teangain ach is iad sin an chraobh chosanta aonraic atá ag cúis na Gaedhilge san Dáil. Ná tréigimis an chúis; caithfimíd a bheith aontuighthe  le céile ar son na teangan, agus má sheasamuid uilig ar an g-ceart, mar ba choir duinn, beidh linn. Ná geillimís doibh seo atá ag maslughadh na teangan, ach abramaois amach, díreach' d'aon guth, go g-caithfidh gach aon breitheamh geilleadh do'n mBun-Reacht nó eirigh as a phost.
Mr. O'HIGGINS Mr. O'HIGGINS
Mr. O'HIGGINS: We have listened to a remarkably able speech from the Deputy. I regret that I cannot find myself in complete agreement with the sentiments he has expressed. A cynic who is himself a fluent speaker of Irish said to me once that humour shrieked and died in Ireland when the Gaelic League was founded. I did not believe him; I do not believe him now. I hope that we have sufficient humour left to appreciate the position that has arisen in regard to this matter. It came before the notice of Deputies first in a letter from the Secretary of the Gaelic League. The letter was in Irish, and was accompanied by an English translation. The official Gael, the salaried official Gael, writes here to Deputies his Irish letter, but accompanies it with an English translation.
CATHAL O'SHANNON CATHAL O'SHANNON
CATHAL O'SHANNON: Why wouldn't he?
Mr. O'HIGGINS Mr. O'HIGGINS
Mr. O'HIGGINS: Why wouldn't he, exactly! But it comes ill from that official Gael to blame people whom he would describe as ex-British Judges for the same practice. Yet that is what it is all about. The ruling of Lord Chief Justice Molony required that an affidavit in Irish be accompanied by a duplicate in English, and the Secretary of the Gaelic League has written to T. D. 's drawing their attention to the fact. Article 4 of the Constitution states that the National Language of Saorstát Eireann is the Irish language, but it goes on to provide that for official purposes English shall be equally recognised. This means that for all official purposes both languages stand on precisely the same footing, and that it is unquestioned that every citizen of the Irish Free State is entitled to use either language equally at his own option—a constitutional right which cannot be taken from him while that provision of the Constitution stands. Any person having recourse to the Courts and having to prove the facts by affidavit is entitled as of constitutional right to  make his affidavit in the Irish language. That is not questioned, and has not been questioned by anyone. At the same time, while a man's official affidavit may be in the Irish language, there is nothing in the Constitution to prevent the Courts making rules, for convenience and to prevent the defeat of the ends of justice, requiring an authentic translation in English, and vice versa, to be lodged with the original in the other language. This is not merely a matter of insisting that Judges and Court officials shall know the national language. It is a question of the right of the other party to the litigation to be put in possession of the facts alleged and relied upon, the object of the affidavit being to prove and put on record the fact relied upon. The Constitution does not give any right to one litigant to choose that one of the two official languages of which his opponent is ignorant and exclude him from defending his position by refusing him the official language he does know. Provision will have to be made on the reconstruction of the Judiciary for equal recognition of the two languages, but rules of Court will be required to protect litigants against being deprived of their rights by playing on the national language to the defeat of justice. When fair rules come to be drawn up, it will be found that the provisions in this respect will not differ substantially from the ruling of the Lord Chief Justice. That is the position. There is no occasion for people to work themselves into a rage or to suggest that we have brought balm and wine to Judges who received the death-stroke from the Deputy's pen on the 6th December, 1921, and who would have expired long since but for our attentions. We were much too occupied for that particular kind of first aid. There is one matter that, perhaps, does require to be cleared up, and that is the matter of stamping both documents. The matter of stamping is not one for the Judges at all.
It is one for the Ministry of Finance, and if application is made to the Minister for Finance for a ruling on that particular matter I have little doubt the ruling will be satisfactory to all concerned, including the Secretary of the Gaelic League. But you have to remember the functions of the courts of law. They are places for the transaction of  public business, for the settlement of conflicting claims, and for the administration of justice between citizen and citizen. They are not primarily linguistic schools or anything of that kind. A non-Irish speaking plaintiff or a non-Irish speaking defendant, as the case may be, in a particular piece of litigation, and his non-Irish speaking solicitor and counsel are entitled to know what is the case put up by the other party to the dispute, and are entitled to have that case put up in a language which they understood and which is open to them. Anything else would not be recognising the equality which is laid down in the Constitution, the equality for official purposes of the two languages. The only scrap of grievance in this matter and the only peg there has been to hang all this controversy on has been the one matter of what was stated with regard to both documents being stamped. As I said that is not a matter for the Judges to rule on at all. It is purely a Finance matter, a matter for the Department of Finance, and the Minister for Finance is not likely to give a ruling in accordance with what was stated in the course of that matter.
CATHAL O'SHANNON CATHAL O'SHANNON
CATHAL O'SHANNON: I do not think that the Dáil ought to be satisfied with the answer of the Minister at all. I think from the ordinary reading of the reports in the newspapers of this case in the Courts before the Master of the Rolls and before the Appeal Court that there has been a certain slight and slur cast on the position of Irish as the National language, and as one of the two official languages of the Saorstát—a slight and a slur just as sharp and as uncalled for as the slight and the slur in the Minister's reference to the payment of the Secretary of the Gaelic League. The Minister was so ignorant that he did not know that one of the Generals in the Army was at one time a paid Secretary of the Gaelic League. That is the kind of thing——
Mr. O'HIGGINS Mr. O'HIGGINS
Mr. O'HIGGINS: Will the Deputy pardon me, I was referring rather to his official position. As the salary puts the stamp rather on that official position I mentioned the matter. I was contrasting this official Gael who ought to have known better, that is if his own contention were right, with what he would call ex-British Judges, who never hung  themselves out as having any particular ardour or enthusiasm in that direction.
CATHAL O'SHANNON CATHAL O'SHANNON
CATHAL O'SHANNON: No; the ex-British Judges might not be expected to have any particular ardour or enthusiasm for the carrying out of the spirit of the Constitution, but the most you would expect was that Ministers would have some ardour and enthusiasm for carrying out the spirit of the Constitution. It may be all right, as the Minister said if a special application were made to the Ministry of Finance that the Ministry would see that whoever had to pay for the stamps on the affidavit in Irish would not have to pay on the affidavit in English. That is not the question. The question is that these Judges—Lord Justices O'Connor and Ronan, and the other—have said that the Irish language was the National language, but that English was the official language of the Courts. One of them—and, I think, perhaps, from common report he is one of the most learned in the law—has stated that by an old statute English has been made the official language of the Courts, and he doubted if an affidavit in Irish could be accepted by the Courts Now, the contention, I think, of those who stand for the acceptance of the affidavit in Irish is that according to Article 4 of the Constitution the National language of the Irish Free State— Saorstát Eireann—is not only Irish, but that it is co-equal as the official language of the Courts and of everything else.
According to another Article of the Constitution, Article 73, it is stated that, “subject to this Constitution, and to the extent to which they are not inconsistent therewith, the laws in force in the Irish Free State, Saorstát Eireann, at the date of the coming into operation of this Constitution shall continue to be of full force and effect until the same or any of them shall have been repealed or amended by enactment of the Oireachtas.” They shall be of full force to the extent to which they are not inconsistent. I maintain that this Statute to which the Judge refers is to this extent inconsistent with the Constitution, and that, therefore, the Constitution is a superior document and a superior instrument to the old Statute, and that for that reason there should be no requirement at all of a second affidavit because that is what the Judges have asked for—a second affidavit. They will have an affidavit in Irish provided there is another affidavit to the same effect in  English. The cases are not analogous at all to that of the Secretary of the Gaelio League sending letters to T. D.'s in Irish with an English translation. It is not an English translation that the Judges ask for. It is affidavits in English they have asked for. They are not willing to put Irish in its proper place according to the Constitution. I am one of those who are a bit cynical about the future of Irish as a spoken language. Things have been happening that have shaken my faith in the likelihood of Irish becoming a dominating language in Ireland within my time, but so long as the Constitution puts it not only as the national language, but one of the two official languages, I submit that the Courts, although they are the old Courts and not the new ones of the Oireachtas, have got the duty to recognise the Irish language as the official language of the Courts, and that affidavits, apart altogether from translation, should be quite acceptable to their clerks and everybody else. Now, what would be the position of an Italian speaker who did not know English or Irish, or of a French speaker who had to make an affidavit? Incidentally I might ask a question in conclusion, just to see how the thing is being done at the fountain head. There is an Article of the Constitution which provides that two copies of every law passed by the Oireachtas shall be made, and one of them shall be signed by the representative of the Crown, to be enrolled for record in the office of such officer of the Supreme Court as Dáil Eireann may determine, and in case of conflict one of them is to fix the question as to which of the two documents is to rule. The one to rule is the one presented and signed by the representative of the Crown. I should like to ask whether, in the case of laws already passed by the Dáil, the Acts presented and signed by the representatives of the Crown and enrolled for record in the office of such officer, have been the copies in Irish or the copies in English?
EARNAN DE BLAGHD EARNAN DE BLAGHD
EARNAN DE BLAGHD: Níl a fhios agam an raibh an ceart ag an Árd-Chúirt nó nach raibh? Agus is cuma do na Teachtaí annseo cad é an tuairim a bhí aca. Do réir Airtiogail 66 san mBun-Reacht níl aon dul thar na cúirteanna ar cheist mar seo. Tá an Árd-Chúirt tar éis breitheamhnas a thabhairt ar cheist. B'fhéidir nár léigh siad agus  nár thuig siad an Bun-Reacht mar a bhí ceapaithe againne. Ach is ortha san gach dlighe a mhíniú, agus is ar an Rialtas gach dlighe a chur i bhféidhm mar a thuigeann na cúirteanna í. Munab ionnan é agus an dlighe a bhí ceapaithe againn, níl aon rud againn ach athrú a dhéanamh air. Nuair a bhímíd ag pleidhe Bille annseo ní bhíonn gach Teachta ar aon inntinn i d-taobh ciall na n-alt a bhíonn ann. Is ar na cúirteanna atá an dualgas an chiall a mhíniú, agus caithfimíd géilleadh do thuairim na g-cúirt. Ní raibh mé fhéin sásta le tuairim na mBreitheamhain sa chúis seo, ach ní abraim go ndearna siad rud ar bith nach rabh cead aca a dhéanamh. Níl aon mhaith a bheith a cur síos ar cheist mar seo. Muna bhfuil an dlighe soiléir, nó muna bhfuil sé mar do shíleamar go mbéadh sé níl againn le déanamh ach amháin an dlighe a athrú. An fiú an dlighe a athrú anois nuair a bheidh na cúirteanna nuadh ar bun laistigh de ráite? Tá coisde in a suidhe anois; tá Bille dá ullamhú, agus ní fada go mbeidh na cúirteanna nuadh ag obair. Tig linn an Bille seo do chumadh i dtreó go mbeidh an Ghaedhilg ar aon dul agus ar aon chéim leis an Bhéarla ins na cúirteanna. Do réir mo thuairime níl 'sa cheist seo ach ceist an-shúrach. Ni féidir le duine gach rud a dhéanamh i lá amháin. Tá a lán rudaí go mí-shlachtmhar agus nílimíd ach a chur deis ortha anois. Is mar sin le ceist na Gaedhilge ins na cúirteanna. Socróchar an cheist sin sar i bhfad, agus níl aon mhaith a bheith ag déanamh clampair anois.
PADHRAIC O MAILLE PADHRAIC O MAILLE
PADHRAIC O MAILLE: Sílim féin gur cóir dúinn níos mó suime a chur ins na rudaí a déantar ins na cúirteanna seo. Bhí lucht na gcúirt i gcoinne na Gaedhilge go dtí anois, agus ba chóir go gcuirfimís i niúil dóibh sin go mbeidh ortha Cothrom na Féinne a thabhairt do'n Ghaedhilig feasta. Ba chóir go dtabharfaidhe cothrom do na Gaedhilgeóiri agus do na Béarlóirí comh maith ins na cúirteanna. Ar feadh i bhfad bí an Ghaedhilg fé chois agus is mithid dúinn anois á rádh go mbeidh Cothrom na Féinne le fághail ag an Gaedhilgeoir in a thír féin.
Professor MAGENNIS Professor MAGENNIS
Professor MAGENNIS: To the superficial view of the ordinary man in the street, the Clerk of the Court who was  quoted by Deputy Gavan Duffy appears to be right, and the Judges appear to have common sense on their side. If they are to adjudicate on evidence submitted to them, and if the evidence is submitted in a language which they cannot understand, it would seem only reasonable that they should demand—in fact, claim—to be entitled to have the evidence put before them in a language which they do understand, above all when they are able to appeal to the Statute law and to show that, according to it, the official language of the Court is English, and there has been no Statute passed in this Parliament repealing that declaration. But the superficial view and the first-sight view are not always the sound views of a difficult and complex matter especially. To read together the 4th Article of the Constitution and the 73rd Article of the Constitution will show that there is a great deal to be said on the other side. True, Article 73 of the Constitution declares that the Statute laws hitherto prevailing as the law of the land shall continue to be so until specifically repealed. But the clause was quoted which was very apt and very relevant, “unless in so far as they are inconsistent with the Constitution.”
Article 4 of the Constitution is the Article bearing upon the matter. It says that the Irish language shall be the national language of the Saorstát. I would direct the special attention of Deputies to the formula which follows: “And the English language shall be equally recognised as an official language.” If there is any meaning in the words “English is an official language equally with the Irish language,” it makes the Irish language the standard. That Irish is the national language, as contemplated in that article of the Constitution, does not mean, therefore, that it is to be the speech of the market-place and the speech of the ordinary populace, while English is to be the language of the cultured section, the upper classes. That is not a legitimate interpretation, in view of the further statement that English is equally the official language with Irish. Now, it seems to me—in fact, I should not use such guarded language at all as “it seems to me,” because I am thoroughly convinced—that all the efforts of the Gaelic League and  of our Irish colleges and our compulsory Irish policies in the Universities, will be rendered futile, absolutely futile, and be shorn of all results in future generations, if we are dispassionate and unconcerned in the question as it now shapes itself. Everyone here knows that there was a period after the Norman conquest of England when the language of law courts, the language of the Bishops and the language of the higher schools was Norman-French, and the Anglo-Saxon was left for the swineherd and the agricultural labourer. It was because of the patriotic efforts of the Anglo-Saxon monk who wrote the history of his people in the Anglo-Saxon tongue in verse, and had it committed to memory by the children, that the Anglo-Saxon language at all survived. Had it not been for a very important happening on the Continent of Europe, by which the Norman Dukes that reigned in England as Kings were deprived of their territories in France, there is not a question but that the Norman-French language would have utterly suppressed in time the native speech. It took from about 1066 to 1399 or thereabouts—that is, three and a quarter centuries—for the vital forces of the Anglo-Saxon speech to reconquer its earlier position; but it was a new speech, it was a new language. The impress of the other had left a permanent mark upon it. Now, anyone who brought his case before the courts was allowed to put his legal document in the two languages. As you know—it is rather pedantic, perhaps, to enlarge upon it—that is the origin of the double phrase such as “hue and cry,” and statements were made in the courts of law in such wise that the judge could understand, and the man indicted and the witnesses could understand. The Anglo-Saxon was to be for the people, and the Norman-French for the higher classes. Something of the same thing will happen here, and we cannot count upon the intervention of Divine Providence in the form of some Continental upheaval to come to the rescue. There might be some such things brought to bear, but that is purely conjectural. During the transition stage, when there are so many of us like myself who find it easier when he has anything to say to express himself in English, and who finds it easier to understand another when he speaks English, it is during the lifetime of those people, only reasonable  that they should have the evidence, with which they are to deal, submitted to them in English. The method of the procedure by which thy get this convenience provided for them is all-important.
If they are to be allowed to declare, as in the case of the court, that in addition to the affidavit sworn in the national language of the people the litigants must be at the expense and trouble of swearing a second affidavit in the English language, whether that is to bear the additional stamp or not does not greatly matter, but if that is to be a decision which every litigant who chooses to use the national language must be bound by, then unquestionably the necessary result of it will be that the national language will not be employed in the law courts of the people, and if it will not be employed in the law courts of the people there is no reason why it should be employed in the higher walks of life at all, and accordingly it will come back to the position it was in some generations ago. It will have the brand upon it of belonging only to the poor, and to those who have no social status, and only to those who are of no account in the eyes of those who speak English. We have before us a striking illustration in the case of Belgium. Until the war broke out in 1914 you had a conflict there between French, with its social status, and Flemish without it. You had the one with the cachet of society and wealth and culture, and the other merely the language of the ploughman. A movement in favour of Flemish as the national language had been gathering strength, and the matter was coming to an issue but for the intervention of the war. Now that there is peace the question is being debated again. A young University had just been founded before the war in which Flemish was all in all. Now I suggest to you that what is happening in other countries provides us with an illuminative experience here. If we are going, I say, to allow insistence upon the use of English in certain departments of public life, then undoubtedly you have got the thin end of the wedge. You have begun a movement, a fissiparous movement, by which gradually step by step the Irish language will be back again as the language of the helot and the slave. It seems to me that this is the  moment, and that the battleground has been provided unless the proper interpretation is given to Article 4, which makes Irish the language in all the fulness and significance of the words “National language,” and permits only English as an official language equally with Irish; unless the proper interpretation of the spirit of the Irish nation is given to these words the Irish language is a lost cause.
Dáil Éireann 2 DAIL IN COMMITTEE. STATUS OF THE IRISH LANGUAGE.