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Thread: Conamara man seeks bilingual jury

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    Politics.ie Member diy01's Avatar
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    Default Conamara man seeks bilingual jury

    Full story @ RTÉ

    The High Court has been hearing a judicial review initiated by a Co Galway man who wishes to have his criminal trial presented before a bilingual jury.

    Mr Peadar Ó Maicín, from Ros Muc in the Connemara Gaeltacht, is seeking to overturn a decision of the Circuit Court in Galway last year which refused his request to have his case heard before a jury which understands both Irish and English.
    He also stated that Irish was his first language, and only in his teens did he master the English language.

    Mr Ó Maicín stated in his affidavit that he was constitutionally entitled to have his case heard solely in Irish.
    My understanding is that this constitutional guarantee only applies to civil cases, but I'm open to correction on that one. What say you? Last I checked, Ireland has two official languages. Here we have a native Irish speaker, someone who has English as a second, learned language and a resident of one of the strongest Irish speaking districts in the country. How hard would it be to assemble a bilingual jury in Galway? I don't think it's good enough for people to say 'ah well, he can speak English too'. Irish is his first language and an official language of the country. Is a judicial review required each time an Irish citizen wishes to use their own language in the courts?

    Peadar Ó Maicín was charged in Galway Circuit Court last year with assault on another man in Co Galway. He denies the charge.

    His request for a bilingual Jury was turned down by Mr Justice Raymond Groarke at the time.

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    Hes entitled , fair play etc . Hes not doing himself any favours though . If it was me I would aim for a wide and varied portion of society to 'judge' me .

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    Politics.ie Member Sync's Avatar
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    I'd be very much against it, for a couple of reasons.

    1. For whatever reason, the majority of Irish people do not have the Irish skills to participate in an Irish only trial. You're effectively disqualifying the majority of citizens from being on this jury. It's a responsibility to participate in the process, but it's also a right.

    2. Man you're creating so many chances for appeal. If the jury misunderstand one important sentence you could go for appeal.

    3. It will be abused. It creates a precedent where I in Dublin with more of a multicultural people could demand an Irish speaking jury if I'm on trial. Say I'm accused of assaulting an immigrant. The last thing I want is a jury of my peers possibly made up of people who have emigrated from the EU. This is a way I could guarantee that wouldn't happen.

    4. It will end up in the EU courts. If you allow someone who speaks English have a jury who speak his native language, why should an Estonian suspect not have the same right? It would be an interesting case.

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    Politics.ie Member Interista's Avatar
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    It will end up in the EU courts. If you allow someone who speaks English have a jury who speak his native language, why should an Estonian suspect not have the same right? It would be an interesting case.
    Because Estonian is not an official language in Ireland. Irish is, and in theory at least, has the same status as English in the Republic. An Estonian suspect would probably have the right to an interpreter, but not to have a jury who spoke his language.

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    Politics.ie Member Sync's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Interista View Post
    Because Estonian is not an official language in Ireland. Irish is, and in theory at least, has the same status as English in the Republic. An Estonian suspect would probably have the right to an interpreter, but not to have a jury who spoke his language.
    In theory. Not in practice. Let's drop Estonia, let's look at Polish. In 2006 we had 60,000 of them declared as living in Ireland compared to 91,000 living in all the gaeltachts. Disregarding the issue of history, from a practical pov, if you allow English speaking Irish citizens here legally have a trial in Irish, why can't a Polish citizen here legally who doesn't speak English have their trial in Polish?

    I don't think it's a case that would necessarily win, I do think it's a case that would go to court.

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    Politics.ie Member Interista's Avatar
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    Disregarding the issue of history, from a practical pov, if you allow English speaking Irish citizens here legally have a trial in Irish, why can't a Polish citizen here legally who doesn't speak English have their trial in Polish?
    Because, as I've said, no languages other than English and Irish have any official status in Ireland. The suspect would be entitled to a translator, but nothing more.


    I don't think it's a case that would necessarily win, I do think it's a case that would go to court.
    I don't think so. Lots of countries are bi- or even trilingual and citizens can be tried in any of the official languages. Plus, if this person can make a case that Irish is his native language and English simply a second language for him, your analogy with a Pole living in Ireland wouldn't stand at all.

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    Politics.ie Member Sync's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Interista View Post
    Because, as I've said, no languages other than English and Irish have any official status in Ireland. The suspect would be entitled to a translator, but nothing more.

    I don't think so. Lots of countries are bi- or even trilingual and citizens can be tried in any of the official languages. Plus, if this person can make a case that Irish is his native language and English simply a second language for him, your analogy with a Pole living in Ireland wouldn't stand at all.

    That's probably the way it would go in court as well. The difference between Ireland and somewhere like Belgium for instance is that while French, Dutch and German may be official languages of the country, from what I know of thd country you can't have a jury trial in German, because less that 100,000 speak it. Happy to be proven wrong on that one though.

    Point 4 would be the more minor of the reasons I listed that I'm against this, the primary one is that we have less than 300,000 people fluent in Irish, only about 50,000 of whom speak it as their first language. At what point do you say it's not reasonable to disqualify millions of potential jurors (and more than likely give the jury a skewed cultural sample) simply to facilitate such a minority?

    The court is handling it well though, and I'd say it will pass to the supreme court in the end, which is for the best. A definitive answer on this will be good the process.

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    Politics.ie Member diy01's Avatar
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    I'd be very much against it, for a couple of reasons.

    1. For whatever reason, the majority of Irish people do not have the Irish skills to participate in an Irish only trial.
    Originally he wanted an 'Irish only trial', but is now seeking a bilingual trial with bilingual jurors, as far as I can tell. Is that unreasonable?

    Is Irish an official language of the State or isn't it?

    The court is handling it well though, and I'd say it will pass to the supreme court in the end, which is for the best. A definitive answer on this will be good the process.
    The Supreme Court case Ó Beoláin v Fahy (2001) is an interesting one.
    http://www.coimisineir.ie/downloads/languagerights.pdf (bottom of page)

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    im sure the 'love everybody once theyre not irish and working class' do-gooder lobby are watching this with interest...

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    Politics.ie Member Sync's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by diy01 View Post
    Originally he wanted an 'Irish only trial', but is now seeking a bilingual trial with bilingual jurors, as far as I can tell. Is that unreasonable?

    Is Irish an official language of the State or isn't it?
    It is, but as I pointed out in Belgium, it's possible to be an official language without going to extremes. In this case we're speaking about disqualifying 90% of the population from being on this jury for someone who speaks English simply to prove a point. A balance needs to be struck between the rights of the individual and the rights of the population, and the integrity of the system. Here the state could fund a professional, trained translator for him where he wouldn't suffer damage.

    To be frank, if it turns out that the man he's alleged to have assaulted isn't Irish then I'm calling shenanigans on his entire argument as it relates to him personally, but the case itself has merit and should have a clear result in the Supreme Court.

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