Call for legal protection for Irish speaking workers following Cork bar issue

Irish language campaigners have called for legal protection for language rights in the workplace after the owners of a Cork bar reportedly told a barman to stop speaking Irish.

Conradh na Gaeilge spoke out yesterday after The Flying Enterprise on South Gate Bridge warned native Irish speaker, Cormac Ó Bruic, against speaking Irish while at work because it was “an English-speaking business”.

Mr Ó Bruic, from the Kerry Gaeltacht Corca Dhuibhne, said he felt he had no option but to walk away from the job: “In my mind, I have to stand up for the language. I love it and that there are still people who don’t want to hear the language at all, I can’t understand it.”

Mr Ó Bruic, who worked in the bar for eight months, said he chatted in Irish to colleagues interested in the language, and to several customers. “Lots of customers would tell us that it was lovely to hear the language spoken,” he said.

But when management told him there had been complaints from customers and he would have to stop speaking Irish, he felt he had no option but to quit. Bar owner Finbarr O’Shea said he wanted English as the working language “because it’s a hospitality business”.

Last night, Conradh na Gaeilge president, Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill said the case highlights the urgent need to include an Irish-language provision in the relevant legislation to protect the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht community from discrimination on the grounds of language in the workplace.

“It’s unfortunate that a company is prohibiting an employee to deal with the public in an official language of the State, if that is their wish,” he said.

The organisation’s general secretary, Julian de Spáinn also said the Language Commissioner should be given powers to investigate language discrimination in the private sector.

“Conradh na Gaeilge will put the matter of protecting the right to use Irish in the workplace before the members of the Oireachtas this autumn,” he said.

In a statement yesterday, The Flying Enterprise said it was surprised by Mr Ó Bruic’s comments, first aired on An Saol Ó Dheas on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta.

“This matter is certainly not about the Irish language,” it said.

“We employ up to 70 people and, of them, there are six different nationalities who all speak their native language. They respect that, while at work, the most sensible and practical language to speak is English.”

The business said the initial dispute was being handled by its external HR company and that while Mr Ó Bruic engaged initially with the process, he left before the process was concluded. The company said it would be unfair to Mr Ó Bruic to discuss an internal HR matter publicly.

Irish language campaign group Misneach Chorcaí protested outside the bar yesterday, with spokesman Diarmaid Ó Cadhla saying the bar owners have no right to curtail a person’s right to speak their native language.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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