Irish language row in Stormont

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Dominic Bradley MLA

If you listen to the business of the Welsh Assembly you will often hear their native language in full flow. In Stormont it is most often confined to “Go raibh míle maith agat, a Comhairle” or “Go raibh míle maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle” Thank you, Speaker or Deputy Speaker. Earlier today Dominic Bradley the SDLP MLA for Newry and Armagh tried to say a little more than this stock phrase.

He got as far as saying:

“Go raibh míle maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Gabhaim buíochas leis as an ráiteas a thug sé anseo inniu. Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur air faoi na moltaí atá sa tuarascáil a d’ullmhaigh an cumann ar mhalartuithe”

before he was interrupted mid phrase due to the nature of the Irish language by the deputy speaker Roy Beggs asked “How long are you going to take to ask this question?”

He continued:

“-oideachais Thuaidh agus Theas, agus cén uair a chuirfear na moltaí sin i gcrích”

In other words he’d got as far as saying.

Thank you, Deputy Speaker. I thank him for his statement here today. I want to ask him about the proposals in the report prepared by the association of North and South educational exchanges, and when the recommendations will be completed

Before he was asked to sit down by the UUPs Mr Beggs. He was later told by the speaker William Hay (coincidentally a DUP elected MLA) that he would not be allowed to speak in the chamber for some time. A similar decision though with an actual time scale was made to TUV MLA Jim Allister last week (the period being one week).

Section 78 of the Assembly’s Standing Orders states:

“Members may speak in the language of their choice.”

This is what Mr Bradley was in the process of doing when he was interrupted, it appears that he was near the end of his question. Common courtesy is that Irish speakers will translate what they have said into the common language of the chamber after speaking in Gaeilge.

So it appears that either the Deputy Speaker suspended standing orders or he actually broke them by interjecting into the question that was being asked and appears to have been brief and almost drawing to a conclusion when he interrupted Mr Bradley. The speaker or deputy does have sole access to simultaneous translation in the chamber and therefore should have known that a question was being formed. While Mr Bradley is not totally faultless in the way that he dealt with the subsequent exchange he was none the less cut off somewhat prematurely by the chair.

So while the chair may have been aware what was being framed and that is was about the matter being debated did he leave sufficient time for the member to finish he question? Did he take it upon himself to hurry up the use of Irish in contravention to standing orders section 78? The speaker has taken action against Mr Bradley for his part in the contretemps but what sanctions will the speaker take against his deputy for his impatience?

Notes The full transcript of the exchange from Hansard

Mr D Bradley: Go raibh míle maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Gabhaim buíochas leis as an ráiteas a thug sé anseo inniu. Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur air faoi na moltaí atá sa tuarascáil a d’ullmhaigh an cumann ar mhalartuithe [Interruption.]

Mr McNarry: How long are you going to take to ask this question?

Mr D Bradley: –oideachais Thuaidh agus Theas, agus cén uair a chuirfear na moltaí sin i gcrích—

Mr Deputy Speaker: Will the Member ask his question and translate please?

Mr D Bradley: Gabh mo leithscéal.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Will the Member ask his question and translate please?

Mr D Bradley: Mr Deputy Speaker, I was in the process of asking a question when you interrupted me. I shall now translate my question, as required by the rules of the House.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Will the Member please sit down?

Mr D Bradley: No, I refuse to sit down.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Will the Member please sit down?

Mr D Bradley: Ní shuífidh mé síos.

Mr Deputy Speaker: I am chairing this event today. Will the Member please sit down?

Mr D Bradley: Is cuma liom.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Will the Member please sit down? I wish to speak.

Mr D Bradley: Bhí mé ag cur ceiste nuair a chuir tú isteach orm toisc gur chuir an fear sin isteach.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Is the Member challenging the Chair?

Mr D Bradley: The Member is challenging the Chair.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Will the Member please sit down?

Mr D Bradley: Yes.

Mr Deputy Speaker: I remind everyone that the Chair is chairing a meeting of the Assembly. If the Speaker or a Deputy Speaker asks someone to sit down, I ask that people respect that. I gave the Member a degree of time to ask his question, but I did not hear that question. I then asked for a question and for a translation. I ask the Member to ask his question and to ensure that there is order in the House. I ask that everyone please respects the Speaker.

Mr D Bradley: Go raibh míle maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Thank you for that ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am pleased that you are in authority here rather than Mr McNarry.

Will the Minister state what action is being taken to implement the proposals prepared by the North/South Exchange Consortium on educational exchanges? When can we expect to see some movement on that report?

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4 thoughts on “Irish language row in Stormont

  1. Ruaidhri Mac Bláin

    Stephen, you have reported, what myself and other Irish speakers feel is a discrace, in far too detached a manner. The personal insult hurled at Mr Bradley also affects his electors, the persons he represents and speakers of the Irish language. There was no perceptable rationale of any kind which could excuse the unmannerly, aggressive, conduct of the Leas-Cheannchomhairle in shouting, virtually screaming at Mr Bradley who was simply asking a parliamentary question completely in order. The rules of the House allow a member to ask a question, or give a speech in Irish, without having to translate it. MLA’s who speak Irish have been in the habit of giving a translation out of sheer courtesy. They take into account that the those who do not understand Irish, including nationalists and republicans, may be reluctant to use headphones for simultaeous translation, because it might show up their inability, or other reasons.

    • Ruaidhri sorry if you feel I was far too detached in reporting this story.

      I did point out the rule in standing orders that says that a speaker may speak in whatever language they choose. I did ask what action the Speaker would take against the Leas-Cheannchomhairle.

      The fact that this is one of the few party websites that you will see the actions of Mr Beggs condemned, most have refused to say anything obviously because defending their base is more important than defending standing orders.

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