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Anger at judgement in Máire Nic an Bhaird case

26 February, 2007

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has called for the rights of Irish speakers to be defended in strong legislation after judgement was given in the case against Irish language teacher Máire Nic an Bhaird today. 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 Máire Nic an Bhaird is seen as a symbol of official hostility to Irish speakers by authorities in the North.

In the magistrates court this afternoon Ms Nic an Bhaird was found guilty of disorderly conducted and fined £100.

Speaking after the decision in the case was announced Ms de Brún said:

"I am both astonished and angry at the judgement in the case today.

"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 in 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.

"I am also concerned that Ms Nic an Bhaird was 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 Fein will continue to press for these rights to be enshrined in an Irish Language Act to be enacted at Westminster without delay." ENDS

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