Language Duties of Public Bodies
Language duties are imposed on public bodies named under the Official Languages Act in three ways – by way of direct duties imposed on public bodies, by making regulations which have legislative status and by agreeing “schemes” or language plans regarding the provision of services in Irish.
Besides these language duties, Irish has a particular status in other enactments as well as the Official Languages Act and specific bodies are accordingly required to provide services through Irish.
Examples of other such acts are the Insurance Act 1936, Transport Act 1950, Heritage Act 1995, Education Act 1998, Planning and Development Act 2000, Garda Síochána Act 2005.
The Official Languages Act confirms that the following duties are imposed on public bodies named under the Act:
- Ensure that correspondence (by post or email) sent to them in Irish is replied to in Irish (Section 9(2) of the Act).
- Ensure that when certain information is provided to the public in general or to a class of the public in general via post or email (for example mail shots) that the communication is in Irish or bilingual (Section 9(3) of the Act).
- Publish the following documents simultaneously in Irish and English:
- any document setting out public policy proposals;
- any annual report;
- any audited accounts or financial statement;
- any strategy statement prepared under the Public Service Management Act 1997;
- any document of major public importance prescribed by the Minister for Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht in conjunction with other Ministers, if appropriate (Section 10 of the Act).
- The Houses of the Oireachtas are required to print and publish all Acts simultaneously in Irish and English as soon as possible after an Act has been enacted (Section 7 of the Act). As a result of an amendment made to the Official Languages Act in section 62 of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011, any Act of the Oireachtas may be published online in one official language before it is printed and published simultaneously in both official languages. In accordance with the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission (Amendment) Act 2006, Section 3(2)(a), the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission is required to translate such Acts.
- Courts are required to deal with people in their chosen official language (Irish or English) (Section 8 of the Act).
- Public bodies are required to agree language schemes with the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht when requested by the Minister and to implement the commitments of such statutory schemes (Sections 11 – 18 of the Act).
- Public bodies are required to cooperate with the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga in the performance of the functions of that Office. This includes cooperating with An Coimisinéir Teanga when he is enquiring into complaints, conducting investigations and/or monitoring public bodies’ compliance with language duties under the Act (Section 22 of the Act).
- All public bodies have a statutory duty to comply with Regulations made by the Minister for Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht regarding the use of Irish in signs, stationery and recorded oral announcements (Section 9(1) of the Act).