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In English Please

AA customer says employee was stopped from speaking to him in Irish

The man cancelled his membership.

A BARRISTER SAYS that insurance firm AA stopped an employee from speaking Irish to him during a phonecall.

Speaking to Cormac ag a Cúig on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta today, Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh said that it was the employee who initiated the Irish language part of the conversation.

“I was asked to confirm my address, and when the young man on the other end of the phone saw that my address was Ráth Cairn (the Co. Meath Gaeltacht) he started to speak in Irish to me. That was great, and everything was going fine until the line was suddenly cut and then he came back to me but spoke in English.

“I thought it was strange the line broke, like in Russia long ago.

“I continued in English and I asked him was he not allowed to speak Irish and he said no.

“Since I knew they were recording, then I started a big speech. I said that it was a bad state of affairs and if that was the way the AA worked that I would be ceasing my membership.”

Mac Cárthaigh said that he had emailed The AA and recommended that they look at the ability to work in Irish and English as an advantage rather than a disadvantage.

“They should see it as an advantage to have someone like that as an asset to the service, that it’s something very positive, particularly since we live in a bilingual country, and that we are part of a multilingual European Union … That it would be entirely natural that such a service would be available, and that there was no sense to banning the use of Irish.

“Most of the time we have problems with the state service trying to find an Irish speaker … in this case I found an Irish speaker by accident and then the system put a stop to the use of the language.”

In a statement to the programme, The AA said that its calls were routinely monitored and evaluated but that this was only provided in English.

They said this was for purely practical reasons, and that there would be additional costs to provide their services in Irish as well as English.

Mac Cárthaigh said he wants legislation to be considered to stop employers from banning people from using the Irish language in the workplace unless there’s a good reason for doing so.

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