20 September 2007 Edition
Máire Nic an Bhaird case thrown out on appeal
Máire Nic an Bhaird was arrested last year when she replied in Irish after being stopped by a PSNI officer. In court, the PSNI accused Nic an Bhaird of addressing them in Irish in an aggressive manner as she and her friends passed them on the Malone Road.
The Irish-language teacher was later found guilty of disorderly behaviour and fined £100.
The long-running case has been the subject of considerable controversy and Irish speakers across the island have rallied to support the young teacher. Like the political vetting of Glór na nGael in the 1980s, the case against Nic an Bhaird has been seen as a symbol of official hostility to Irish speakers by authorities in the North.
Speaking after the court overturned the original decision against Nic an Bhaird, Bairbre de Brún said the case exposed the PSNI and Public Prosecution Service to allegations of malicious prosecution.
“The ruling makes a mockery of the original judgement. This young woman should never have found herself before the courts and would never have been in court were it not for the fact that she spoke Irish on the streets of Belfast
“I was in court to hear the evidence given by the PSNI against her and I must say that I found that evidence staged and unreliable.
“Ms Nic an Bhaird was also denied the right to have the papers relating to the case in Irish or to have the court hearing in Irish. This flies in the face of the Good Friday Agreement, the Criminal Justice Review and the European Charter on Regional and Minority Languages.
“The Máire Nic an Bhaird case shows the need for strong legislation to promote and protect the rights of Irish speakers. Sinn Féin will continue to press for these rights to be enshrined in an Irish Language Act without delay.”