Trathnóna inné, thosaigh an Bhille na nDlí-Chleachtóirí (An Ghaeilge) 2007. Yesterday evening, the Legal Practitioners (Irish Language) Bill 2007 began. My second stage speech is below:
Is ceart an-thábhachtach, atá ag gach duine sa tír, an cheart an Gaeilge a úsáid in imeachtaí os comhair na cúirte. Is fiú mórán an cheart sin. Caithfimid a bheith cinnte go bhfuil an tseirbhís sin le fáil sna cúirteanna ag gach éinne a theastaíonn uathu tairbhe a bhaint as. Ba chóir dúinn córas éifeachtach a chur i bhfeidhm. Caithfidh an chóras sin a bheith macánta freisin. Luaigh an Aire an Acht Lucht Cleachtuithe Dlí (Cáilíocht) 1929, a fhorálann gur chóir d’abhcóidí “leor-eolas” ar an dteanga a bheith acu. Mínítear “leor-eolas” san Acht sin mar an méid sin oilteachta i labhairt agus i scríobh na Gaeilge agus is leor chun a chur ar chumas cleachtóra dlí, le héifeacht, treoracha a ghlacadh, comhairle a thabhairt do chliaint, finnéithe a cheistiú agus imeachtaí sa Ghaeilge a thuiscint. Is abhcóide mé le blianta fada anuas agus dá bhrí sin, is féidir liom an cheist a chur – cé mhéad abhcóidí a bhfuil na scileanna sin acu, go macánta?
Tá suim ag a lán abhcóidí sa Leabharlann Dlí sa Ghaeilge. Níl siad in ann cásanna a dhéanamh sna cúirteanna trí Ghaeilge mar níl an caighdeán oiriúnach acu. Tá sé ag roinnt abhcóidí, ach níl sé ag formhór dóibh. We must be honest about having a system in place that allows and provides for an efficient and reliable system to be available for people who wish to have their business in court conducted in Irish. There is little point in continuing with what in reality has been a fiction. The fiction goes back to the 1929 Act where that system was put in place. For 80 years it simply has not been the reality at the level that was contemplated in 1929.
Rinne mé an scrúdú seo i 1987, nuair a bhí mé in Óstaí an Rí. Bhí olltoghchán ar siúl ag an am céanna. Bhí mé ag obair i RTE ag an am sin. Tháinig na torthaí amach an lá tar éis an toghchán. Ní raibh mórán ullmhúcháin déanta agam don scrúdú Gaeilge an lá chéanna. Chuaigh me isteach go dtí Óstaí an Rí ar mo rothar chun bualadh leis an scrúdaitheoir. Bhí an-suim aige sna torthaí ó Chontae Maigh Eo. D’éirigh liom sa scrúdú Gaeilge.
I was delighted to pass the test but somewhat miffed to discover that my friend, who had never learned a single word of Irish ever because he had been given some sort of dispensation or exemption in school, passed with equally flying colours ten minutes later. This was the sort of fiction that was evident. Admittedly, this has improved in recent years. I agree very strongly with my colleagues’ point that we need to put in place a system that does justice to the language and makes presumptions about people’s knowledge thereof. As Senator McDonald rightly said, the system should encourage professional lawyers to learn Irish and reach a certain level of proficiency while at the same time favouring those who make an effort to reach a higher level.
There was some debate on a number of amendments tabled by my colleague, Deputy Brian O’Shea, in the Dáil. The then Minister of State, Deputy Carey, said that during Committee Stage in this House, he would return to some of the matters raised. Nuair a bheidh an díospóireacht againn, b’fhéidir go mbeidh further discussion againn on individuals who are already in the system. I refer also to those who went through the system 30 or 40 years ago but who did not pass the test and were deprived of their qualification. I do not know why they did not have the same outcome as my friend who did not have a word of Irish. Perhaps they did not have the same examiner.
I welcome the basic thrust of the Bill. There is no question that it is progressive although there are a few issues I would like to revisit on Committee and Remaining Stages.