Northern Ireland

Appeal judges reject bid to overturn Irish ban

High Court

Senior judges have rejected a legal bid to overturn a 270-year-old ban on the use of the Irish language in NI courts.

The Court of Appeal dismissed claims that the centuries-old law was discriminatory and breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case was taken by Irish language speaker Caoimhin Mac Giolla Cathain.

He appealed the dismissal of a legal case he took after he was told his application in Irish for an occasional drinks licence could not be considered.

Under the Administration of Justice (Language) Act of 1737, all proceedings in NI courts must be in English.

Mr Mac Giolla Cathain had been seeking a liquor licence in connection with a musical concert in the Culturlann arts centre on the Falls Road in west Belfast.

Last summer, a High Court judge rejected his contention that the 1737 Act was incompatible with the European Charter for Regional and Minorities Language and secondly that the Act contravened his human rights.

His lawyers argued that the legislation had already been repealed in Scotland and Wales.

In court in Belfast on Wednesday, three senior judges rejected his bid to end the ban on the use of Irish in court.

Lord Justice Girvan, sitting with Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan and Lord Justice Coghlin, said the Act had not been shown to be incompatible with any of Mr Cathain's Convention rights.

Lord Justice Girvan said: "Conferring on individual litigants a right at their option to convert court forms from English into a language not understood by the vast majority of intended recipients would frustrate the interests of justices."

He added: "In a jurisdiction where English is the language of the overwhelming majority of the population the requirement that court documents initiating proceedings be in English as the working language of the court is a practical necessity in the interests of fairness."