Irish is spoken in the House of Commons for the first time in more than 100 years

Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville-Roberts calls on British government to introduce Irish language act

In what is believed to be a first in modern British political discourse, a Welsh member of parliament addressed the House of Commons in Irish on Wednesday.

During a debate on decision-making powers of civil-servants at Stormont, Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville-Roberts called on the British government to introduce legislation protecting the rights of Irish speakers.

Parliamentarians heard the Member of Parliament for Dwyfor Meirionnydd say in Irish that language rights are human rights and that the Irish-speaking community is entitled to equality of treatment: “Is cearta daonna iad cearta teanga agus tá cothrom na féinne tuilte ag lucht labhartha na Gaeilge,” she said.


Wednesday’s contribution is the first time Irish was spoken by a sitting MP in modern times.

In 1901 , Irish Parliamentary Party MP for West Kerry Thomas O’Donnell delivered his maiden speech in Irish.

Reporting on his speech at the time, the Pall Mall Gazette proclaimed: “Mr Thomas O’Donnell rose in the House last night to make his maiden speech, and addressed the Speaker in the Erse language. As a joke it was the feeblest performance that even Mr O’Donnell can have perpetrated, and by this time he ought to be consumed by his own blushes.”

“When the Speaker refused to listen to Mr O’Donnell, even after his leader had pleaded for him to be allowed to speak in the language he knew best, Mr (John) Redmond advised his follower to refuse to speak in English if he was forbidden to speak in Erse. So Mr O’Donnell shut his lips with a snap, and the House won’t hear him talk this side of Christmas. It is a small mercy, but not to be despised. As for Mr Redmond, if he would restore himself to our favour let him give similar advice to the rest of his party.”

October 25, 2018

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There is a follow-up article - "Another Irish grievance!’ What happened when Irish was spoken in the House of Commons in 1901"

The report from The Globe is quite astute - it pretty much describes the situation in Dáil Éireann today.

If the use of Irish should come to be legalised no member would avail himself of the new privilege, because his speech would necessarily go unreported.

October 25, 2018

Do you know what “sapen” might be in the report from St. James’ Gazette, “the mere sapen members”? It isn’t in the OED.
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Níl tuairim faoin spéir agam!

It's a first step..But people must speak too.

Yes it was good to hear it last night. If Sinn Féin members took their seats we would hear it a lot more . Maith thú Liz

Since taking their seats would require them to swear the Parliamentary oath, to “be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth [and] her heirs and successors”, it’s not likely that those seats will be taken by them.

Yes, that would be a pity, especially when Ireland is nearing its centennial year of independence.

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