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Official Languages Act 2003 & DCU’s Language Scheme

DCU has various responsibilities under the Official Languages Act 2003.

The main aim of the Official Languages Act is to increase and improve the quantity and quality of services provided for the public through Irish by public bodies.

It also promotes the use of Irish in public affairs and to ensure the use of Irish by public bodies when communicating with the public and/or providing services to the public.

Public bodies communicate with the public in many ways including letters, emails, mail shots, information leaflets, reports, announcements and websites. In the case of each of these, public bodies have specific duties under the Official Languages Act.

A Guidebook to the Official Languages Act 2003 can be downloaded here 

You can find general information relating to DCU's Language Scheme and the main sections of the Offiicial Languages Act whch cover Communicatiions, Publications, Stationery, Signs and Recorded Oral Annoucements in the sections below:   

DCU's Irish Language Scheme 

The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht can request that a language scheme be prepared and also confirms the scheme, the commitments have statutory effect and the public body has a duty to implement them.

In March 2006 DCU published its first Scheme for the Implementation of the Official Languages 2003 as per Section 11 of the Official Languages Act 2003.

A copy of DCU Language scheme can be downloaded here

The Irish Language Officer is available to come and speak to staff in your own department about compliance with the Act and Language Scheme.

Any questions, queries or complaints about the implementation of the Official Languages Act in DCU can be direacted to the Irish Langauge Officer. 

Communication

Public bodies communicate with the public in many ways including letters, emails, mail shots, information leaflets, reports, announcements and websites. In the case of each of these, public bodies have specific duties under the Official Languages Act.Information on Stationery, signage and recorded oral announcements are availbale on this page under those headings. 

Letters and emails in Irish

When a person writes to a public body in Irish, by letter or by email, that person is entitled to receive a reply in Irish. On this basis, public bodies have a duty to ensure that they have a system in place to deal with correspondence in Irish.

The service in Irish should not be of a lower standard than the service in English.

Circulating information to the public in general / Mail shots – Section 9(3)

Public bodies have a duty to ensure that any information in writing sent to the public in general, or to a class of the public in general, is in Irish only or in English and Irish.

Sometimes public bodies have difficulties deciding whether a particular communication comes under Section 9(3) of the Official Languages Act. Section 9(3) should be read in the context of Section 9 as a whole and the purposes of the Act as stated in the long title - “An Act to promote the use of the Irish language for official purposes in the state.....in communicating with or providing services to the public and in carrying out the work of public bodies...”.

Section 9(1) relates to the making of regulations with regard to the use of Irish in signage, stationery, recorded oral announcements etc.

Section 9(2) relates to replying to any written communication initiated by members of the public with public bodies.

Section 9(3) relates to particular communications initiated by public bodies under the Act in specific circumstances. Because of the wide variety of communications issued by public bodies, it is clear that each case must be considered on its own merits.

Communications

There are four particular aspects to Section 9(3) and any communication which a public body proposes with the general public or with a class of the general public should be assessed under these criteria to decide whether the proposed communication comes under this Section.

These are the criteria:

• Is the communication from a public body under the Act?

• Is the communication by post or by email?

• Is the aim of the communication to provide information?

• Is the communication with the general public or with a class of the general public?

If the communication proposed by the public body satisfies each of these criteria, it would appear that it comes under the provisions of Section 9(3) and it should be issued in Irish or bilingually.

If the proposed communication fails to satisfy any one or more than one of these criteria, it would appear not to be included under Section 9(3).

As the specific aim of communications under Section 9(3) must be to “provide information”, each method of communication must be assessed on its own merits taking the purpose of the communication into account.

The Act does not specifically define the concepts “providing information”, “the general public” or “a class of the general public”.

Publications 
Under Section 10 of the Act, public bodies have a duty to publish certain core documents simultaneously in Irish and English including: 
  • Any document setting out public policy proposals;
  • Any annual report;
  • Any audited accounts or financial statement;
  • Any statement of strategy prepared under Section 5 of the Public Service Management Act 1997;
  • Any document that has been appropriately prescribed as being of major public importance.

Public policy proposals

Public bodies have a duty to publish any document setting out public policy proposals simultaneously in each of the official languages.

It is evident that Section 10(a) includes such documents as: 

  • White papers and green papers issued by Government Departments;
  • Local authority draft development plans;
  • Any other public policy document which is published and which sets out proposals in relation to public policy.

When a public body is deciding whether a document comes under this heading and whether, as a result, it must be published bilingually, the following questions should be addressed:

a) Is the document made by or under the authority of a publicbody which comes under the Official Languages Act?

b) Is the document to be published? As the word “published” is not defined in the legislation, it takes its usual meaning. In other words, will the document be made available to the public?

c) Does the document contain “public policy proposals?” Again these words are not defined in the Act and, accordingly, they take their usual meaning. It appears that consultation documents, in which public policy proposals are presented for consideration with the possibility that they may or may not be implemented, are included among such documents. These documents include but are not limited to white and green papers as well as local authority draft development plans.

If the document satisfies these three aforementioned criteria, it would appear to come under the terms of Section 10(a) of the Act and it is necessary to publish it simultaneously in both official languages.

If the document fails to satisfy any one of these three aforementioned criteria, it would appear not to come under the terms of Section 10(a) of the Act. Consequently, there would be no statutory duty to publish it simultaneously in

both official languages under this sub-section of the Act.

Annual reports

Public bodies must publish annual reports simultaneously in both official languages.

  • This provision means that the Irish and English versions should be within the same cover or in two separate volumes of equal standard.
  • Simultaneously means that the two versions, if they exist, should be available at the same time.

It is not sufficient to provide a printed version in English and an electronic version in Irish. An electronic version in Irish is sufficient, however, if the English version is also in electronic format only.

Audited accounts or financial statements

A public body must publish audited accounts or financial statements simultaneously in both official languages. The aforementioned criteria which apply to the publication of annual reports also apply to audited accounts and financial statements.

Strategy statements

A public body must publish any strategy statement, prepared under Section 5 of the Public Service Management Act 1997, simultaneously in both official languages.

This duty does not apply to strategy statements in general but only to those statements prepared as a result of an obligation under the Public Service Management Act.

Any prescribed document

A public body must publish any document of major publicimportance prescribed by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht (in conjunction with other Ministers, if appropriate) simultaneously in both official languages. The Minister had not prescribed any such documents when this edition of this Guidebook was published.

 

Stationery

In accordance with the Regulations under Section 9(1) of the Act, public bodies have a duty to ensure that their stationery (notepaper, compliment slips, fax cover sheets, filecovers and other folders, labels and envelopes) are provided in Irish or bilingually as set out under the Regulations. 

If bilingual text is chosen (instead of text in Irish only) what are the Regulations regarding stationery?

a) The text in Irish shall appear first.

b) The text in Irish shall be as prominent, visible and legible as the text in English and shall appear on the same side of the page concerned.

c) The letters in the text in Irish shall not be smaller in size than the letters in the text in English.

d) The text in Irish shall communicate the same information as the text in English.

e) A word in the text in Irish shall not be abbreviated unless the word in the text in English, of which it is the translation, is also abbreviated.

f) If there is a Placenames Order under Section 32 of the Act in force, a public body must use the official Irish language version specified in the Order in its stationery headings. The Placenames Orders 5 are available at www.coimisineir.ie.

Also please see the information on the Marketing and Communications webpages for more guidance regarding stationery.   

Signage 

In accordance with the Regulations under Section 9(1) of the Act, public bodies have a duty to ensure that their signage are provided in Irish or bilingually as set out under the Regulations. 

If bilingual text is chosen (instead of text in Irish only) what are the Regulations regarding signs?

a) The text in Irish shall appear first.

b) The text in Irish shall be as prominent, visible and legible as the text in English.

c) The letters in the text in Irish shall not be smaller in size than the letters in the text in English.

d) The text in Irish shall communicate the same information as the text in English.

e) A word in the text in Irish shall not be abbreviated unless the word in the text in English, of which it is the translation, is also  abbreviated.

f) If there is a Place names Order under Section 32 of the Act in force, a public body must use the official Irish language version specified in the Order on signs placed by it at any location. The Place names Orders are available at www.coimisineir.ie.  

 

Recorded oral announcements

In accordance with the Regulations under Section 9(1) of the Act, public bodies have a duty to ensure that their recorded oral announcements are provided in Irish or bilingually as set out under the Regulations. 

Public bodies have a duty to ensure that recorded oral announcements made by them or on their behalf are in Irish or bilingual by 1 July 2013.

What kinds of announcements?

1. Recorded oral announcements provided on the telephone when the offices of the public body are closed for example: “This office is open from 9 until half past five. The office is closed now but leave a message and we will return your call.”

2. Recorded oral announcements transmitted by a public address system for example recorded announcements such as a security warning in an airport, a train station or in any other public place.

3. Recorded oral announcements created and transmitted by means of a computerised messaging system or a computerised telephone answering system for example: “Press 1 for accounts; press 2 for the switchboard.”

The voicemail on any major contact number in College to be bilingual Languages can be in any order, but exactly the same information is to be expressed in both languages.   

The Role of the Office of the Comisnéir Teanga

The Role of the Office of the Coimisinéir Teanga

The Office of the Coimisinéir Teanga (Language Commissioner) is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the provisions of the Act, advising the public about their rights and advising public bodies about their responsibilities.

If you wish to find out more about The Office of the Coimisinéir Teanga you can do so at the following link  

Important Legislation and Publications 

Scheme for the implementation of the Official Languages Act 2003 DCU 2006 – PDF

The University Act 1997 – PDF

The Official Languages Act 2003 – PDF

Guidebook to the Official Languages Act 2003 – PDF

GUIDELINES under Section 12 of the Official Languages Act 2003 (2004) – PDF

Language Rights Charter – PDF

20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 – 2030 – PDF