Activists protest outside Cork pub at centre of Irish language row

Former barman claimed he was told not to speak Irish while working at city centre bar

Activists protest outside Cork pub at centre of Irish language row

Photo: Gael Taca / Twitter

Activists have called for language rights to be protected in the workplace after a Cork pub allegedly banned a member of staff from speaking Irish while on the premises.

Dozens of people demonstrated outside the Flying Enterprise yesterday in support of Cormac Ó Bruic, the former barman who said he left his job over the policy.

Members of the Gael Taca group held signs saying "our city, our rights" and "a pub without a language is a pub without a soul".

The controversy arose after Mr Ó Bruic claimed he decided to leave the company after being ordered to only speak English while working.

In an interview with RTÉ Radió na Gaeltachta on Thursday, the Kerry native said he was told that customers had complained about not being able to understand Irish-speaking staff.

Mr Ó Bruic, from Corca Dhuibhne, said he usually addressed customers in English but would chat in Irish to those who were Gaeilgeoirs.

In a statement on Friday, the Flying Enterprise said it was "surprised by the comments" made by its former employee.

"This matter is certainly not about the Irish language," it insisted.

"We currently employ up to seventy 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.

"Cormac fully understands that this is a HR matter which was dealt with by our external HR company and him.

“We wish to clarify that Cormac was not fired or dismissed not did we intend to fire or dismiss Cormac in this regard.

"However, while Cormac did initially engage with the HR process, he decided to leave before the process was concluded.

“Therefore we believe it would be unfair to Cormac if we were to discuss an internal HR matter publicly."

Conradh na Gaeilge said the case highlighted the need for legislation to protect the rights of Irish speakers in the workplace.

General Secretary Julian de Spáinn said: "In this day and age, it is hard to believe that anyone would even doubt an employee’s right to speak the first official language of Ireland, in Ireland, without the threat of being dismissed from their job for doing so.

"The relevant legislation needs to be amended – be that the Employment Equality Act or the Official Languages Act or other legislation – to safeguard each employee’s right to use Irish in the workplace and to authorise the Language Commissioner to investigate any discrimination such as that in the Ó Bruic case."