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Saturday 20 September 2014

RTE's Daithi O'Se jumps to the defence of an Irish tourist who alleges a Glasgow taxi driver refused to allow her friends speak Irish

Geraldine Gittens

Published 08/01/2014 | 12:20

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RTE presenter Daithi O'Se is a native Irish speaker
The statue of Wellington in Glasgow city.

A Glasgow taxi driver is under investigation for allegedly refusing to allow Irish tourists to speak Irish in his car.

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An Irish woman has claimed that the taxi driver, who has not been named, threw the passengers out of his taxi at the side of the road at 2am after they objected to his demand that they stop speaking in Irish.

And RTE presenter Daithi O’Se, a native Irish speaker himself, has jumped to the defence of the Irish speakers in Glasgow.

“I think it reflects that the taxi driver himself was an ignorant person moreso than anything else,” the RTE star said.

“In Ireland if a French or a Spanish person was speaking their language in an Irish taxi, you wouldn’t have many people telling them to speak in English.”

“Maybe he’s speaking a foreign language himself – they have their own language in Scotland and he’s speaking English. So I wonder did he ever think of it like that.”

Enforcement officers from Glasgow City Council are now investigating a formal complaint against the driver, a city spokesperson has confirmed.

Kathleen McAleer, 21, a mental health nurse, was travelling in the car with three other passengers in the early hours of December 16 in Glasgow. She was travelling across the city with her friend and two first cousins from Donegal.

Her cousins, Joseph and Anthony Blair, 19 and 21, are native Irish speakers.

Ms McAleer claimed: "The taxi driver turned around and said to [her cousins] 'Stop speaking in that language'.

"We didn't really know how to take it. He said: 'When you are in Britain, it is English you speak.'

"I said to the driver 'Excuse me', shocked that somebody would say that to them."

She told the taxi driver that he was out of order, and she claims that he told the group to get out of his taxi.

Ms McAleer has reported the matter to the taxi company and the city council.

Investigations into incidents involving taxis and their customers are carried out by Glasgow City Council's enforcement team.

Daithi told independent.ie that he never encountered racism abroad when he conducts conversations in Irish.

“I speak Irish at home and abroad. It depends on who’s with me and what conversations are there. But never in my life have I come across anything like that.”

“Most people, especially in America, would say ‘oh I didn’t realise that Ireland had its own language’.”

“[The Glasgow taxi driver would] want to learn his own language first. Scots gaelic is close enough to the Donegal dialect in Ireland. I’d be able to follow a conversation in it. But it’s spoken mainly by people around the Scottish islands.”

“But definitely, the incident was ignorance on his behalf. I hope they keep speaking Irish wherever they go.”

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