The National Treasurer of Republican Sinn Fein was arrested and charged by the PSNI for speaking Irish, the party has said.
It is understood Diarmuid Mac Dubhghlais was arrested in Derry on Thursday after he gave his name and responded to questioning in the native Irish language.
Republican Sinn Fein Des Dalton said Mr Mac Dubhghlais had been charged “simply with insisting on his right to converse in the Irish language, reinforcing the point that within the Six-County state it remains a crime to speak Irish.”
He said the incident showed that the nature of British rule has not changed in the north of Ireland.
“So much for the Stormont Agreement’s commitment to full respect for, and equality of, civil, political, social and cultural rights,” he said.
“Such actions expose this for the empty rhetoric that it is. The Six-County state is an abnormal and undemocratic entity whose relationship with the nationalist people is that of a coloniser.
“Consequently the very markers of a distinct Irish identity such as our language are regarded as a threat to the Six-County state.”
He said former British Six-County Direct Ruler Peter Hain had let ‘the cat out of the bag’ in 2012 when he admitted there would be an “inbuilt majority” against increased Irish language rights at Stormont.
“The attempted criminalisation of Irish speakers is only what is expected of a colonial state whose intention is the eradication of any vestiges of Irish nationality, culture or history,” he added, concluding with the words of 1916 rebel leader Padraig Mac Piarais: “Tir gan teanga, tir gan anam.” [A country that has lost its language is a country that has lost its soul].
It has also emerged that the 26-County government is planning to row back on provisions in legislation guaranteeing Irish speakers equal access to State services.
A revised draft Official Languages (Amendment) Bill 2014 includes the removal of a provision requiring the publication in Irish and English of documents setting out public policy proposals.
Among other planned cuts, the draft warns that the use of the Irish language “version” of names and addresses could make it difficult for IT or other business systems used in the public sector.
Fianna Fail’s Eamon O Cuiv said the draft was “frightening” and questioned the basis for most of the proposed amendments, which he said were “either technical or negative”.
Singling out the amendment providing for the use of Irish and English versions of names and addresses, Mr O Cuiv said said that there was no right to translate a Gaelic name or address into English.
“I have to say that I always believed that no-one had the right to translate my name. I always thought that your name belonged to you yourself,” he said.