Sunday, November 12, 2006

No Irish Spoken Here?

Kathryn Price NicDhàna's blog, Pàganachd Bhandia, tipped me off to the sad and horrid case of Máire Nic an Bhaird, who was arrested on the streets of Belfast for the crime of using Irish to say goodbye to her friends within earshot of a police officer.

A link to the PDF describing the case from the Celtic League is here. And if you think people are all rallying around this woman and her usage of Irish, guess again. DemiOrator also cites a discussion with Nic an Bhaird in which she explained her side.

This must have sent a few shock waves through the growing Gaeltacht in Northern Ireland. The devolution talks have been making all official attempts to express and support NI as a multilingual society, but this attitude has apparently not sunk in with the constabulary. I hope that whatever else happens, some education takes place so that the police remember there's no good reason to assume "oíche mhaith duit" means "up the Rah." (For the record, it means, "good night.")

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sorting out the laws

Jason Pitzl-Waters posted recently about the decision in Ireland to eliminate the dual-ceremony system of marriage imposed on practitioners of most religions other than Roman Catholicism. I did some more looking around, and found two things. First, Pitzl-Waters misstated the current situation somewhat, though the editorial (requires registration) that inspired him didn't exactly help in its sweeping comments on the issue mixed with some odd ideas about Druids. It is noted in the General Register that other religions besides Roman Catholicism have means of performing weddings without forcing a second wedding onto the believers. Church of Ireland, Presbyterian, Quaker and other Christian faiths, as well as Judaism, are noted as being eligible to perform weddings without the need for a second ceremony. Islam is noted as being ineligible very specifically, but any religions other than that are not mentioned at all. The context of "other religious bodies" within the rules has most likely been interpreted as meaning "Christian denominations not listed here" over the years, especially considering the concept appears between the Presbyterians and the Quakers.

That said, the law change to quit forcing people outside of those groups to go through two ceremonies or arrange to have a registrar on site is a very good idea, and one that helps bring Ireland more into modern times. That aspect of the story led me to the Pre-Independence Project currently being undertaken by Ireland's Office of the Attorney General. They are going through the laws that have been on the books since before the founding of the Republic of Ireland and making sure all of the laws have been ones passed by their own government instead of applied by the British Parliament and carried forward by sheer momentum. I suspect the marriage law is one of these. Other obsolete and non-applicable laws have been progressively stripped from the books as well.

And while this doesn't put Ireland back in the days of the native brehon laws, a system that predates the Magna Carta, an Ireland truly under Irish law will be a nice reality to have back again. I share Pitzl-Waters' hope that the marriage law amendment, as well as other changes, will make it a more equal state, devoted to rights for all citizens regardless of religious faith or lack thereof.