For non-Irish readers, it might surprise you to know that we Paddies have our very own language, which is hundreds if not thousands of years old. It bears no relation to English save the use of the same alphabet.
For those from the UK you could probably compare it to Welsh but the big difference is that in Ireland, less than half of one per cent of the population use Irish every day whereas the Welsh are more urgent about their Mother-tongue.
But our written Constitution recognizes Irish as our National language and as such, it is enshrined. That does not mean it is compulsory to use it but it does mean that officialdom has to nod in its direction as regards everything. In practical terms this means that every document our Government sends us is twice the size it needs to be. A two-page questionnaire becomes four pages as two extra Irish ones are included.
But it doesn't stop there. Everything, and I mean everything that comes to any us from the EU must, by law, include a copy in both English and Irish. To give you one hilarious side-effect of this, when anyone applies for planning permission here either to build or extend, a notice of it must be pinned to their gate to facilitate objectors. Clever Dicks often publish this in Irish, (or "As Gaeilge" as we say). It is done knowing that grumpy next door hasn't a word of it.
Now in the grand scheme of things it's all a harmless, if a tad wasteful in pure paper terms. But yesterday, we had a real beauty. The story began with a Polish lad who, when full of Guinness, hopped into his car and took off. The boys in blue were waiting for him and plod took a dim view of the happy fellow. A prosecution followed and he had his day in court. This is where this run-of-the-mill tale took a uniquely Irish twist.
His solicitor stood up and told the puzzled judge that the prosecution document as received by his client was in English only and because of our Constitution, the Polish lad had a right to an Irish version as well. This infringement of his civil rights stumped the beak and rather than make a pronouncement in his lower court, he kicked it upstairs.
This event happened last year and the same defense has been used in many other cases, all awaiting the judgement from the High Court. This was duly delivered yesterday and it was rich in its Irish-ness. Noting that the breathalyser showed clearly that the likely lad was as pissed as a newt on the night, the judgement made the point that in this regard the Gardai were bang on. But there is no way around a written Constitution and the poor Pole was denied his Constitutional right to get his bad news in Irish. The case against the foreign drunk was struck out.
Brilliant, isn't it? The lads back in Warsaw must be laughing their holes off. A fair amount of our own likely lads who are awaiting sentence for their own drunk-driving must surely be down the boozer right now to toast the wisdom of the High Court. I reckon the ones who are really pissed after this are the Gardai. They must be asking themselves, "What's the point?"