Tue 18 Oct 2005
Gaelic finally used in legal parlance
A LEGAL first is thought to have been created in the Western Isles yesterday when a lawyer addressed a court in Gaelic.
Solicitor Angus MacDonald received permission from Sheriff David Sutherland to speak through the medium of the language in Stornoway Sheriff Court.
Mr MacDonald is also president of An Comunn Gaidhealach, the organisers of the annual showcase of Gaelic music and culture, the Royal National Mod, which is being held in the islands this week.
As official court proceedings got under way yesterday morning, Mr MacDonald said: "I think it would be appropriate, seeing as this week we are hosting the Royal National Mod in the Western Isles that I speak in my own language, Gaelic, which is the first language of the majority of people in these islands."
Mr MacDonald then switched to English to tell the court that he hoped the day would eventually come when an entire case could be conducted in Gaelic.
Although it has been known in the past for witnesses to speak in the language, this is thought to be very first time it has been used by a lawyer in official proceedings.
Comunn na Gaidhlig chief executive Donald Martin welcomed the historic occasion, but pointed out that few were aware it was now possible to use Gaelic in the sheriff courts of Stornoway, Portree and Lochmaddy.
He explained that following the ratification of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages the Scottish Executive had made provision for the language to be used in local courts where Gaelic is seen as being strongest.
"I very much welcome this," said Mr Martin. "I think it's appropriate it's done this week and I hope it will encourage more use of Gaelic in the courts."