Focalfactory meets deadlines. We write in a simple unstilted Irish which native speakers can understand. We offer a fast, accurate and 100% reliable Irish translation service with upfront rates of €130 per 1000 words. That is cheaper than 99% of the Agencies and the highest quality is not compromised.

eXTReMe Tracker

1. Schemes: Introduction | 2. Scheme Guidelines | 3. Scheme of the Department
4. Schemes in Total | 5. Agreed Schemes 2008


1. Introduction

The primary objective of the Official Languages Act ("the Act") is to ensure better availability and a higher standard of public services through Irish.

These Guidelines have been issued by the Minister under Section 12 of the Act. They provide a practical framework to assist public bodies in preparation of schemes in accordance with the Act. The Guidelines were prepared by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs with the assistance and advice of an interdepartmental working group. The Guidelines were published in July 2004, in draft form for consultative purposes. A copy was forwarded to each public body inviting them to submit any comments, observations, or suggested amendments to the Department for consideration.

These Guidelines have been informed by that consultative process. The Department appreciates the time and effort of all concerned in this process.

The Guidelines have been designed both to produce workable guidance for public bodies in preparation of schemes and to allow sufficient flexibility to accommodate the full range of circumstances faced by public bodies of different sizes, functions and degrees of interaction with the general public.

Some of the terms used in these Guidelines have specific meanings as defined by Section 2(1) of the Act. For ease of reference these are contained at Appendix 1.

Chapter 1 Constitutional and Legal background

1.1 The Official Languages Act seeks to give legislative effect, insofar as the delivery of public services is concerned, to Article 8 of the Constitution. Article 8 provides as follows:
1 The Irish language as the national language is the first official language.
2 The English language is recognised as a second official language.
3 Provision may, however, be made by law for the exclusive use of either of the said languages for any one or more official purposes, either throughout the State or any part thereof.
1.2 The Official Languages Act has been framed in the light of this provision and having regard to how that article has been interpreted and applied by the Supreme Court. It is instructive to look at how this provision has been interpreted by the Supreme Court in the Ó Beoláin case. Hardiman J (giving one of the majority judgements of the court) stat ed in the Supreme Court as follows:

 "In my view the Irish language which is the national language and, at the same time, the first official language of the State cannot (at least in the absence of a law of the sort envisaged by Article 8.3) be excluded from any part of the public discourse of the nation or the official business of the State or any of its emanations. Nor can it be treated less favourably in these contexts than the second official language.

Nor can those who are competent and desirous of using it as a means of expression or communication be precluded from or disadvantaged in so doing in any national or official context."

1.3 The above passage can be translated into a constitutional right to transact all business with the State and its emanations, through Irish, at the election of the citizen. Consequently, the citizen is entitled, constitutionally, to transact all and every piece of his or her business, with the State through Irish and that language alone.

Notwithstanding that constitutional position, however, in practice it is very difficult for citizens to obtain the bulk of public services through the Irish language and in the case of many public services, no effective provision has yet been made for the delivery of those services through the Irish language alongside their deliver y through the English language.

1.4 The Courts have held that Article 8 gives rise, apart from any other effect it may have, to a constitutional imperative. It is clear that the approach taken by the Courts is that there are rights and duties. The right is that of the citizen. It is a right to use the national language on occasions of his or her choice. The duty is imposed on public bodies. It is a duty to respect that right in all dealing with the citizen and to promote and maintain the Irish language as the national language.

 There is a duty on the State to maintain and promote the Irish language. It would be acting contrary to that duty if it permanently declared that certain functions of the Stat e would only be transacted in English, regardless of the wishes of citizens competent and desirous of using the Irish language in their dealings with the Stat e and its emanations in that language in those functional areas.

 

1.5 Section 11 of the Act provides for the preparation by a public body of a draft scheme specifying those of its services the public body proposes to provide:

  • exclusively through the medium of the Irish language,
  • exclusively through the medium of the English language,
  • and through the medium of both the Irish and English languages.

1.6 The scheme must set out the measures the body proposes to adopt to ensure that any  services that are not provided by the body through the medium of the Irish language will be so provided over a period of time and/or a series of schemes - each scheme being effective for a 3-year period.

1.7 The Constitution (in Article 8.3 quoted above) anticipates that the State can, by law, specifically state that certain official functions will be transacted solely in Irish or solely in English. The question arose in drafting the Act as to whether this is permissible where a permanent exclusive use of English is envisaged. An interpretation of Article 8.3 that allowed for a permanent exclusive use of the English language for specified official purposes would negative the constitutional imperative created in Article 8.1 and on that basis, the advice available to the Government is that only a temporary exclusive use of the English language would meet the constitutional requirements. The reason is as follows:

There is a duty on the State to maintain and promote the Irish language. It would be acting contrary to that duty if it permanently declared that certain functions of the State would only be transacted in English, regardless of the wishes of citizens competent and desirous of using the Irish language in their dealings with the State and its emanations in that language in those functional areas.

1.8 The Act therefore has been drafted with the intention that the arena in which services are currently available exclusively through English will be progressively reduced over time so as to meet demand for services in the Irish language in all functional areas. This will principally be achieved by the statutory obligation the Act places on public bodies to make specific provision for the delivery of such services through a statutory scheme, to be agreed for a three-year renewable period between the head of the body concerned and the Minister. The intention is that over the lifetime of a number of schemes there will be a progressive move to provision of all services directed at the general public through Irish. The detail of each scheme and the extent to which progress can be made towards this objective in each individual scheme will fall to be drafted by the public body concerned and agreed with the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs having regard in par ticular to the following:

  • The underlying level of demand for specific services in the Irish language in the context of positive provision
  • The resources, including human and financial resources, and the capacity of the public body concerned to develop or access the necessary language capability.

1.9 The order in which particular services will be prioritised for provision in the Irish language and the timescale involved will be determined by the body with the agreement of the Minister in the light of these considerations.Chapter 2

Chapter 2 Overview

2.1 Initiation of process of drafting a scheme

2.1.1 The process is formally initiated when the Minister issues a notice in writing under Section 11 of the Act to the head of the public body, requiring the public body to prepare and present to him or her for confirmation within such time (not being more than 6 months from the date of issue of the notice) as is specified in the notice a draft scheme. The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs will be in informal contact with public bodies in advance of the issuing of a formal notice by the Minister.

 2.1.2 The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs is committed to consultation with and provision of such assistance as is possible to Public Bodies in this process. This will provide an opportunity to clarify any issues and discuss any specific logistical, organisational or other special issues that arise in the organisation in the context of drafting a scheme under the Act. Public Bodies may wish to take the opportunity at this stage to consider two issues in particular:

Whether it would be desirable for two or more closely connected Public Bodies to prepare a joint scheme. Examples of organisational relationships where this might be appropriate would include

  • Where an umbrella organisation has responsibility  for a number of stand-alone executive bodies
  • a county or city council and the borough or town  councils within its functional area
  • bodies providing similar professional services, but  from different premises or geographical bases.
  • The applicability of the provision in Section 11(5) of the Act, which allows for different schemes within a public body in respect of different services. While the Minister does not foresee a need to avail of this provision in relation to the gener ality of public bodies, there may be special requirements in rare cases that would warrant invocation of this provision.

 2.2 Notice of Intention to prepare a draft Scheme

2.2.1 Under Section 13 (1) (a) of the Act, public bodies are required to publish a notice of intention to prepare a draft scheme under the Act. Departments / public bodies may wish to consider the following:

  • Bi-lingual notices - outlining the purpose of the consultation, the time-scale and the deadline for submissions (a minimum of one month for presentation of submissions)
  • Notice may need to contain a brief summary of the Act and / or advice on where the Act can be viewed
  • Need to advertise in Irish language newspapers / magazines and circulate to the main Irish language organisations via Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge [www.comhdhail.ie]
  • Providing details of where information in relation to the mandate and role of the public body / services provided to the public by the body is available in order to avoid receiving a range of submissions that are irrelevant to the consultation process of that public body.

A sample notice is attached as Appendix II. The standard practice of the public body in relation to advertising should be adhered to in the placement of this notice so as to ensure that the notice reaches its target audience.

Regulations, under Section 9 of the Act, regarding bilingual advertising will be made by the Minister shortly and will be available on www.pobail.ie.

2.3 Consultation Process / Requirements

2.3.1 The consultation requirement in the legislation (i.e. publication of an advertisement to invite submissions) should be taken as the minimum required. Section 13(1)(a) of the Act requires a public body to publish notice of its intention to prepare a draft scheme and invite representations from any interested parties. Where a prior customer consultation exercise has been undertaken recently and has addressed official language choice issues, it would not be necessary to repeat the exercise. This section of the guidelines has been written with situations in which there has not been such a prior consultation exercise in mind. 

2.3.2 The commitment to Quality Customer Service as part of the over all Public Service Modernisation Process calls for significant commitment by public bodies to continuous improvement in customer care standards and to consultation with customers to that end. To better understand the needs and expectations of their customers, Departments and public bodies, prior to consultation, should identify who their customers are - those who are, either directly or indirectly, recipients of their services. These should include - for example:

  • Individual customers
  • Industry representative organisations
  • Irish language organisations
  • Focus groups
  • Staff interests, including an assessment of the ability of staff to deliver services through Irish

2.3.3 In order to ensure wide-ranging and effective participation, the body should as appropriate ensure that consultations include individuals and organisations countrywide, including where appropriate Gaeltacht areas, i.e. where the body provides a service to customers located in Gaeltacht areas . The consultation process should be well- planned and managed with objectives and outcomes clearly defined, and should address how the body will support participation, develop partnerships and ensure consultations are user-focused. The precise scale and extent of the consultation process will depend on:-

  • the nature of the individual public body,
  • the size of the public body,
  • the range and complexity of the services it provides to the public, and 
  • the degree to which customer consultation mechanisms have already been developed

In the case of smaller public bodies Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge may be contacted as a 'one-stop-shop' for consultation with Irish language organisations.

Some issues arising in relation to support of participation might include:-

  • Details of how the planning of consultations will ensure an equal opportunity for all to participate - hosting bilingual meetings, translations via an interpreter
  • Provide information on the scheme in both official languages in a variety of formats simultaneously
  • Promote positive imager y of the Irish language - to encourage visibility and raise awareness Train staff and facilitators in language awareness 

2.3.4 Various methods of consultation may be considered and should be determined by reference to a range of considerations, e.g. customers, resources, capabilities. These might include:

  • Customer surveys - questionnaire based
  • Customer panels
  • Focus groups
  • Face to face interviews
  • Comment cards / suggestion schemes
  • Public meetings

Guidelines on how to use these consultation methodologies are contained in the publication "Customer Charters - Guidelines for Preparation" available from the Public  service Modernisation Division, Department of the Taoiseach or www.bettergov.ie

And for internal staff:

  • Notice boards
  • Electronic surveys
  • Through QCS networks

2.3.5 As indicated above, account should be taken of any consultation process already undertaken. Where issues of language choice have already been covered in a consultation process, all that may be required would be to engage with those people making submissions, as a result of the advertising referred to at 2.2.1 above.

2.3.6  The organisation's historical experience, the consultation process and any submissions received on foot of the formal notice under Section 13 (1)(a) of the Act will allow a tentative assessment to be made of potential demand for services through the Irish language.  The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affair s appreciates that the assessment of underlying demand may prove quit e difficult for some public bodies in the context of their first scheme. Therefore, it may be appropriate for a public body to provide an explicit mechanism to monitor the success of the scheme and allow for any adjustments that may be necessary during the lifetime of the scheme. Demand may be slow to emerge initially, until member s of the public become aware that the  service is available in Irish and confident of the accessibility and standard of Irish language services and monitoring/review mechanisms should be cognisant of this.

 2.4 Requirements for an effective scheme

2.4.1 To be effective, a scheme prepared by a public body must:

  • have full support at all levels within the Government Department / public body concerned;
  • include a statement of intent in line with the objectives of the Act;
  • set out the precise steps which will be taken to provide  services through the medium of Irish, through the medium of English, and through the medium of Irish and English, and the precise steps to be taken by the public body to ensure that any services not being provided through the Irish language will be so provided and by when;
  • set out how the public body will develop or access the language capability needed to deliver on these longer- term commitments;
  • include specified goals and strategies that are ambitious but attainable;
  • include a timetable and an action plan for the specified targets;
  • detail the methods of implementation, monitoring and evaluation;
  • be drafted in the light of consultation with users; outline the organisation's approach to bilingual layout and design;
  • identify staff who are competent to conduct official business bilingually;
  • outline how internal support functions including human resources policy will be aligned to support delivery of the commitments in the scheme;
  • identify the resources, including financial, required to deliver the goals of the scheme;
  • detail how the public will be informed of the availability of services through the Irish language;
  • identify the person at an appropriate senior level within the organisation responsible for co-ordinating matters in relation to the Official Languages Act 2003.

  2.5 Summary of Body's services and activities

2.5.1 Each scheme should open with a brief introduction, which will set out the background to the scheme.

A summary of the services provided and activities undertaken by the public body and a statement of intent setting out the key objectives of the current scheme in terms of improved provision of services through the Irish language should also be included in the introduction. A suggested approach to this introduction can be found in the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs' own scheme, which is available at www.pobail.ie.

2.5.2 The on-going business planning process within public bodies and existing public accountability mechanisms such as FOI Manuals and Annual Reports already provide concise descriptions of the aims and objectives of individual bodies and of services and activities undertaken. This documentation provides the basis for compiling a summary statement about the organisation and its  services and activities for this part of the scheme.

While not all public bodies will have had occasion to prepare documentation under all of these categories, the types of source documents that are generally available include:

  • Statements of Strategy
  • Annual Business Plans
  • Section 15 & 16 Reference Manuals (under the Freedom of Information Acts)
  • Annual Reports and Accounts
  • Customer Service Action Plans and Customer Charters
  • Information brochures and other literature

Approximately a page should be allowed for this section of the scheme.

2.6 Assessment of level of services already available through Irish

2.6.1 An assessment of services available through the Irish language within each organisation will be necessary. The following checklist has been suggested:

Quality Service Standards

Do you publish English and Irish versions of documents simultaneously?

Do your service standards include commitments to delivery of service through Irish?

Are your reception and switchboard staff competent in the Irish language so as to be able to provide a service through Irish as well as English?

Equality

Do you conduct communication  services bilingually in a way that treats the 2 languages on the basis of equality?

Do you publish English and Irish versions of documents simultaneously?

Public Interface

Are your reception and switchboard staff competent in the Irish language so as to be able to provide a service through Irish as well as English?

Do you allocate Irish-speaking st aff to work in places which frequently receive calls from the public in Irish?

Information

In light of the Official Languages Act 2003 Departments have to ensure, over the longer term, that information and services which are directly provided to the public, and particularly in the Gaeltacht, are available in Irish. Do you provide your services in the Irish language?

Do you make information in Irish and in English available in a range of locations (Local/Regional offices)?

Do you provide information material in a range of formats in Irish and in English?

Do you provide information in Irish and in English on the web?

Do you provide publications in Irish and in English?

Timeliness and Courtesy

Do you give staff names who are able to deal with  services through Irish to customers in order to minimise delay in responding?

Is training provided for staff as part of your Staff Training and Development programme in communicating effectively and with sensitivity with customers who wish to be provided with a service through Irish, either orally or written?

Complaints

Do you have a system to deal with complaints in Irish?

Appeals

Do you have a system to deal with appeals in Irish?

Consultation and Evaluation

Do you consult on the delivery of your services in Irish with the Irish language community including customers in the Gaeltacht in a meaningful way?

Do you operate a system of evaluation to monitor the effectiveness and acceptability of that service?

Choice

Do you provide choice, between the English and Irish language, where feasible, in  service delivery, including payment methods, location of contact?

Do you provide application forms, information leaflets bilingually?

Internal Support Services for Front Line Staff 

What supports in Irish are provided for frontline staff who deliver services through Irish:- e.g. work manuals, glossaries of common Irish terms relating to the services they provide, other electronic resources?

2.7 Assessment of underlying demand

2.7.1 The scheme will specify the measures the organisation will employ to assess and deliver on the needs of the customer. Following consultation and the auditing of current services the organisation will be in a position to plan and organise their service development. As already indicated, a public body cannot rely solely on current data, as demand will increase with enhanced awareness and confidence. The scheme should address the following issues:

  • How demand and quality will be assessed and monitored on a continuous basis. For example, surveys, feedback facilities, evaluation forms, impact assessments, service standards.
  • The development and role of a coordinating team in supporting the implementation of the scheme.
  • The development of partnerships, networking and visibility so as to break down knowledge barriers
  • Partnerships between offices/agencies to assist in the pooling of limited resources.
  • Evaluation of any publicity/promotion used
  • Staff training and creating enhanced organisational awareness
  • Services need to be prioritised according to user needs and the principle of choice.
  • Due to limits on resources, a phased approach over the lifetime of one or more schemes will be required
  • Procedures and policies which will ensure quality service provision in the language of choice
  • The use of translators
  • Positive action measures, for example, welcoming applications through Irish

2.8 Prioritisation of services by level of public demand

2.8.1 In preparing a scheme, a public body will need to assess and prioritise the services and activities of its own individual organisation for enhanced delivery through the Irish language during the lifetime of the scheme. It will wish to assess the level of demand in different areas in order to decide those priorities, as well as gauge the language resources available currently within or to the organisation to meet such service provision and demand needs. The process will involve each public body in identification of different issues of importance and these may include:

  • Current and future capability within the Body in delivering services through the Irish language
  • Capability within particular areas of expertise
  • Survey of staff views
  • Question of centralising in one unit actual delivery of Irish language services; or, alternatively, of support  services for staff delivering front line services within the organisation. (This may be the most feasible but would have resource implications and may not ensure equality of treatment for Irish language user s as greater expertise for individual services will reside in specialist units.)
  • If a service is been offer ed in a public office with a number of counters/offices, and if only one officer available is competent to provide the  service in Irish, it might be advisable to indicate this by using a simple technique - placing a card above his or her counter - GAEILGE and ENGLISH. This should ensure that people wishing to conduct their business in Irish would go straight away to the right counter.

Another technique for facilitating business in either Irish or English would be to have one telephone number or telephone extension for service in one language and another for service in the other. This would help to avoid delays and embarrassment.

Chapter 3 Preparing a Draft Scheme

3.1 Listing of Services / Activities

3.1.1  The scheme should list all services or categories of services/activities in sufficient detail to describe separately which  services will be available in the Irish language only, in the English language only or in both of the official languages. Organisations might also consider classification by the different channels through which services are provided.

The objective of the Act is to ensure that all services directed at the general public are available through the Irish language and that customers seeking a  service in the Irish language should not be treated less advantageously than customers seeking an English language service.  There is scope in this exercise for public bodies to look creatively at how Irish language services might best be delivered to their customer base and to make the maximum use of modern information technology, including internetbased approaches, in line with the Government's commitment to the Information Society and eGovernment agendas.

3.1.2 The following steps may be helpful in this exercise:

  • Departments/bodies should compile a list of  services by main category being delivered by the Department/body. Existing QCS Action Plans / Annual Reports may provide the basis for this exercise.
  • List all the processes used to support these  services and to whom the service is being delivered.
  • Identify the communication methods to deliver services and the current practice with regard to language usage.

Example:

Communication methods

Irish 

English

  Irish and English

What is the Department policy

Internet site

       

Correspondence

       

Telephone

       

Meetings

       

Personal callers to offices

       

Callers to clients homes / office/premises

       

Specialist staff

       

eGovernment

       

3.1.3  Consider the following

  1. Assessment of services available through Irish
  2. Outcome of consultation process on demand for services through Irish
  3. Assessment of most cost-effective approach to Irish language provision and most suit able service delivery method
  4. Review staff competencies to provide the  services
  5. Availability of outsourcing services where there is no expertise in the Department

3.1.4 Set out clearly the services the Department/body intends to provide bilingually during the lifetime of the first     scheme.

  • The necessary measures to be taken to ensure provision of each cluster of  services / activities through the Irish language over the longer-term should be listed. These may include recruitment / transfer of bilingual staff: staff training, translation of documentation, printing of documentation in Irish or in bilingual format, modification of computer systems / software, adoption of innovative/internet-based deliver y methods. This will  require prioritising measures while at the same time specifying timeframes for delivery of each of the  services not currently being provided in Irish.
  • Provide a summary of the measures which will be taken together with a timetable for implementation of each activity where equality of language provision is not currently in place.

Example:

Service (List the main  services being delivered by the Department/body)

Information and Documentation in delivery of the Service

Teachers' Payroll

Processes used to provide this service

Irish

English

Irish and English

Circulars

     

Information leaflets

     

Application Forms

     

School Buildings

Tender Documentation

     

Maintenance Manuals

     

Design of Buildings Plans

     

Bills of Quantities

     

Design Brief

     

Organisations may wish to outline their commitment to an equally high quality of customer service. This commitment could include existing services and how they will be monitored and reviewed.

3.2 Listing of English only services / activities

3.2.1  As indicated at paragraph 1.6 a draft scheme must set out the measures the body proposes to adopt to ensure that any services that are not provided by the body through the medium of the Irish language will be so provided over a period of time and/or a series of schemes - each scheme being effective for a 3-year period. Consequently, a scheme should ideally strive towards providing a bilingual  service in relation to all services directed at the general public within the lifetime of the scheme, insofar as is appropriate in the circumstance and reasonably practicable. Where this cannot be achieved within the lifetime of one scheme, the scheme should set out the steps the body proposes to take to ensure

that services not being provided in the Irish language will be so provided and by when. Services could be prioritised by legal obligation, needs of customers / demand and resources such as human and financial.

Possibilities such as pooling of resources, organisational partnerships and the adoption of advanced technology systems that facilitate linguistic choice should be considered.

The following is a summary of what is required:-

  • List the main  services available in English only
  • Identify the services in English only that have been prioritised as a result of the consultation process to be provided bilingually during the lifetime of the current scheme
  • Set longer-term aims and a timeframe where commitments cannot be implemented or where services in Irish cannot be made available immediately

3.3 Means of communication

3.3.1. Under Section 11 (2) of the Act, the scheme should set out the various means of communication used by the public body when communicating with the general public, groups, or individual member s of the public in relation to its  services and activities and the provision of same, and specify the extent to which these will be provided in Irish only, in English only, or in both official languages. It will be necessary that all organisations have clear procedures in their communications strategy for dealing with requests. The methods of communication to be used also need to be built in at the project planning stage of any new initiative.

Examples of means of communication include:

  • Emails
  • Recorded telephone information  services
  • Telephone services
  • Application forms
  • Information leaflets
  • SIs and byelaws
  • Websites
  • Press Releases

In relation to those means of communication that the public body intends to make available in the Irish language, the scheme will set out the measures necessary to ensure such provision. These measures may include:

  • Staff training and recruitment
  • External or internal translation of documentation
  • Printing of documentation in Irish or in bilingual format
  • Provision of template letters / emails for staff use
  • Modification of computer systems / software

Publication in both official languages of documents such as internal instruction manuals, documents of a technical or scientific nature produced for other public bodies, and material directed at an international audience is not envisaged.

It is envisaged that speeches or statements, including those in the Oireachtas, by Ministers or speeches by senior officials, board members, and Chief Executive Officers, etc. will be made available in the language(s) in which they are delivered.

 3.4 Formulating an explicit Policy for the organisation in relation to provision of bilingual services

3.4.1 Consider reflecting in your organisation's Customer

Charter the Quality Customer  service commitment to provision of services in the official language of the Customer's choice. A positive statement that any customer choosing to do business in Irish is welcomed would be appropriate. At a minimum, such a policy must include the following

Correspondence:

  • The precise arrangements to ensure that the obligation to reply to correspondence received by the Department/ body in the language used.
  • A bilingual practice could be adopted in printed documents (application forms, circular letters, information notices etc.). In most cases, best practice will be that the separate language versions are presented within one cover.

Other elements for consideration:

Telephone systems:

The receptionist/switchboard operators are the first points of contact with the public. A Department/body should ensure that:

  • the name of the Department/body is given in Irish and in English
  • reception staff are familiar with the basic greetings in Irish
  • that arrangements are in place to put members of the public in touch speedily with whatever office or officer is responsible for offering the service required through Irish

E-Mail:

Any standard message or disclaimer on e-mail correspondence will be bilingual as soon as this can be achieved, availing of next scheduled upgrade/ maintenance of computerised systems to put this in place

Computer Systems:

The scheme must provide that any new computer systems being installed will be fully capable of handling the Irish language and that existing systems will, where necessary, be made compatible in conjunction with the next suitable planned maintenance or upgrade work. Given the major technical and resource issues involved, this is an issue to be tackled over the long-term.

Website:

The scheme should set out the organisation's policy with regard to the pr ovision of a bilingual website. The following are a number of specific points that could be addressed in this context.

  • Any new interactive services which allow the general public to make applications or receive benefits on line must be introduced simultaneously in both languages.
  • This is an essential requirement and the scheme should set a date by which the organisation will commit itself to this standard.
  • Existing interactive services available in English only should be upgraded as soon as resources and pressures on other work in the IT area allow. The scheme should, as necessary, specify timeframes in that regard.
  • Distinguish between information of interest to the general public, which is likely to be sought in the Irish language, and information of specialist interest only, including technical and scientific material and material directed at an international audience, where there may not be a demand for Irish language provision. A public body will need to make its own assessment of likely demand for particular publications in the Irish language, having consulted with customers.
  • The objective is that any internet information services, including general information about the organisation's activities, which are directed at the general public should be made available in both languages. The scheme should set out the organisation's policy in this regard, the extent to which current provision is bilingual and the extra provision to be put in place under the scheme.
  • It is not expected that reports or sections of sites directed mainly at an international audience, such as highly technical and scientific reports, or guides to the Irish economy and investment opportunities prepared for international investors, would be made available in the Irish language.

Speeches or statements, including those in the Oireacht as, by Ministers or speeches by senior officials, board members, and Chief Executive Officer s, etc. will be made available in the language(s) in which they are delivered.

3.5 An Ghaeltacht

The Act requires that a public body, in preparing a draft scheme, shall ensure that

  • the particular Irish language requirements associated with the provision of services in Gaeltacht areas are met
  • the Irish language becomes the working language in its offices situated in the Gaeltacht not later than such date as may be determined by it with the consent of the Minister for Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs. 

The extent to which these are central issues for a particular public body will depend on the nature of its  services and, in particular, whether it has a specific Gaeltacht responsibility.

 3.5.1 Meeting Irish language requirements of the Gaeltacht

The scheme must set out the steps to be taken to ensure that - over time, where this is not already the case - Irish becomes the default language of service deliver y in the Gaeltacht. In addition to directly-applicable statutory obligations under the Act, this will necessitate ensuring that all information directed at the public in the Gaeltacht is made available either in the Irish language only, or in both the Irish and English languages where appropriate, including:-

  • Brochures & leaflets
  • Application forms
  • Press releases
  • Website

3.5.2 Offices in the Gaeltacht

The Act (at Section 13(2)(e)) imposes an obligation on a public body to ensure that the Irish language becomes the working language of its offices in the Gaeltacht not later than such date as may be determined by it with the consent of the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Where the Irish language is not already the internal working language of such offices, it will be necessary to plan for it to so become over a period of time. The public body will need to consider the following

  • Opportunities for existing staff to train/upskill language competence
  • Ability to work through Irish as an essential requirement for any new staff being recruited/assigned/including on promotion to a Gaeltacht Office after the commencement date of the scheme.
  • Need to ensure that instructions, manuals and other resource material are issued to offices in the Gaeltacht in the Irish language at the same time as they are being issued in the English language to other offices.

It is important that the interests of existing staff are protected. Where there are existing staff who are not in a position or willing either currently, or following training/upskilling, to work through the Irish language, then the date for the taking effect of this section to be proposed to the Minister for his/her agreement, should take account of their position. Once the date is agreed, it will be possible to revise it and agree an earlier effective date, but it will not be possible to extend the date.

It is also important, in order to avoid this provision of the Act being negatived, that any circulars and other written instructions or resource materials issued to offices in the Gaeltacht by HQ or central Divisions (e.g. Personnel, Corporate Services) that relate to service deliver y be in the Irish language and - where this is not already the case - that this be arranged at the same time as any Gaeltacht Office changes to Irish as its internal working language.

 3.5.3 Public Meetings in Gaeltacht Areas

Where a public body is organising a public meeting for a Gaeltacht community, simultaneous interpretation services should be provided where it is not possible to run the meeting through the Irish language or where all speakers are not able to make presentations in the Irish language.

3.5.4 Gaeltacht Placenames

The official Irish language name of Gaeltacht places [as declared by the Minister in the Placenames (Ceantair Ghaeltachta) Order 2004 (which have been published in draft form - www.pobail.ie) - will be made in the Autumn] should be used as the default on any register s and databases. A full and definitive official listing of administrative units in Gaeltacht areas, i.e. Townland, Electoral Division, Parish, Barony, will be available on www.pobail.ie once this Order has been made. The scheme should set out the steps to be taken to this end and the timescale envisaged.

 3.6. Training Courses and Staff Development

3.6.1 Under Section 13(2)(c) of the Act, each public body is required, in preparing a draft scheme to ensure that an adequate number of its staff are competent in the Irish language so as to be able to provide its  service through Irish as well as English. It may be useful to set out in the scheme outline details of how this will be achieved. The scheme should identify what section / division of the organisation will be responsible for training sufficient staff to an adequate level of competency. The scheme should also state how levels of competence are determined (e.g. tests, whether formal or informal; self-rating by staff members).

3.6.2 Depending on individual circumstances, it may be necessary to make separate training provision for staff in offices outside of Gaeltacht areas and staff in offices in Gaeltacht areas.

3.6.3 Formal training courses could be focused on staff providing  services through Irish. Non-formal training could be considered for other staff to increase the overall level of Irish competency in the organisation. Training programmes could be designed based on a needs analysis following an assessment of the competencies required.

3.6.4 Each public body should ensure through for example training courses, seminars and briefing sessions, that all staff within the body are aware of the commitments contained in the agreed scheme.

 3.6.5 The following elements could be considered in determining training requirements:

Determine competencies for the Irish services your Department will provide:

  • Reception duty
  • Telephone queries
  • Correspondence
  • Information Leaflets
  • Web information
  • Other

Example:

Service

Competency required

Level of competency available

Training Needs

Receptionist

Informal language

e.g. No Irish

Tailored to needs

e.g. Role play, access to language laboratory, on- the job instruction/ support, dedicated Irish Unit to support staff at all levels

Irish Translator

Fluency in written & verbal communication

e.g. Degree level

Access to databases of new terms, new titles, new initiatives etc. Up-skilling as necessary

Telephone queries

1. informal language

2. competency to have the ability to convey information correctly

e.g. 1. No Irish

e.g.2. Gaeleagras certificate of competency obtained in 1998

1.Tailored to needs

2.Refresher courses, language laboratory, informal in- house Irish language courses or practice groups

Correspondence

1.Devise templates in order to issue straightforward acknowledgements and/or letters

2. Ability to draft

complicated letters

e.g.1.Basic skills in written communication e.g.2. Competency in knowledge of vocabulary and basic grammar but would require that drafts are checked

1. Tailored to meet needs

2.Refresher courses and on the job instruction/ support together with the support of a dedicated Irish Unit from whom expertise would be available.

Information Leaflets

Fluency in written communication

e.g. Competency in knowledge of vocabulary and basic grammar

Refresher courses and on the job instruction/ support together with the support of a dedicated Irish Unit from whom expertise would be available.

Web acknowledgements

e.g.1.Devise templates in order to issue straightforward acknowledgements and/or letters

No Irish

e.g.1.Tailored to meet needs

e.g.2.Refresher courses and on the job instruction/ support together with the support of a dedicated Irish Unit from whom expertise would be available.

 

Suggested Training Means:

  • Provide Irish courses in written and verbal communication which meet the competencies required as identified in the needs analysis
  • Provide courses which are geared specifically for Irish speakers who are willing to provide services through Irish, to improve their grasp of standard written Irish
  • Consider making distance learning packages in Irish available to staff
  • Provide details and offer advice about training courses available from colleges and training establishments in the further and higher education sector
  • Provide details of the custom-made courses and other usual courses from Irish Language bodies which cater for various levels of competency
  • Provide courses in specialist skills, as identified in a scheme, such as IT, technical jargon used in School Building processes etc
  • Draft sample letters (template) which could be used for acknowledgements to correspondence including Web acknowledgements
  • Specialist skills required where simultaneous translation and translating paper work is necessary
  • Consider organising social events, e.g. coffee mornings, or other informal events which would facilitate interaction and practice in speaking Irish
  • Consider setting up a dedicated Irish Unit
  • Help school leavers on entering the Public Service to retain Irish and improve their knowledge of it

3.7. Resources Available

Foras na Gaeilge (www.gaeilge.ie) have a statutory role and responsibility in r elation to providing advice and assistance to public bodies in respect of delivery of  services through the Irish language. Foras na Gaeilge have prepared a substantial amount of resource material - in paper and electronic format - for public bodies, including Irish language versions of standard forms and other text. e.g. www.acmhainn.ie is a useful specialist terminology resource. In this regard An Coiste Téarmaíochta which comes under the aegis of Foras na Gaeilge is responsible for term-creation and will offer authoritative advice in relation to any technical terms not available on the website or in any of the specialist dictionaries. It should be noted that there is a wide range of specialist dictionaries and other resources already available.

In addition, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs is working with Foras na Gaeilge and other interested parties to put resources and systems in place in relation to priority areas for attention such as quality assurance of translation services, accreditation system for Irish language training, specialist Irish language training courses, electronic database of standard signage, etc.

Advice on how to access the various resources and supports that are available can be obtained from the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affair s.

3.8 Delivering Training

3.8.1 For existing staff, encouragement could be provided by providing that participation in approved courses may be in working hours and receive full support from Personnel, line management and top management. Therefore, the body should consider carefully what resources both financially and in staff time it can devote to a training programme, and ensure that the returns, in terms of staff that are competent to conduct the body's business through Irish, are satisfactory. The body may wish to set out what, if any, self learning aids e.g dictionaries, tapes etc. it intends to make available to staff and the incentives in place to use them. A range of other supports are available from Gaeleagras (for civil and public servants) and Foras na Gaeilge.

3.8.2 Consideration should be given to adopting the Equality/Diversity Training approach which is contained in the Support Pack on the Equality/Diversity Aspects of QCS for the Civil and Public Service. It provides a checklist of objectives for training, approaches to the delivery of training and examples of key modules for training.

Chapter 4 Monitoring and Review

4.1 Publicising of Agreed Scheme

4.1.1  Following agreement between the Minister and the public body in relation to an agreed scheme, the public body should publicise its contents and make its commitments and the provision of the scheme known to the general public by means of:

  • Press Release
  • Launch of the scheme
  • Advertisement
  • Circulation to appropriate agencies
  • Website

4.1.2 Contact details of Units/personnel providing an Irish language service should be included as an Appendix and kept up-to-date on the body's website.

4.2 Monitoring

4.2.1 Consider the following objectives for monitoring progress:

  • Monitoring achievement against the timetable in the scheme
  • Monitoring the incidence and nature of complaints
  • Monitoring the implementation of staffing and training measures set out in the scheme
  • Conducting periodic opinion surveys to test the views of customers e.g. comment cards, face-to-face discussions
  • Recording suggestions for improvements
  • Reporting in the Department's/Public Body's Annual. Report, where performance against commitments can be reviewed
  • Internal review to take account of all correspondence received in the Department/Public Body as well as observations of front-line staff and super visors
  • The internal customers' perceptions of the implementation of the Act may be established by dedicated questionnaire or by including questions on Irish  service in other questionnaires, e.g. evaluation of the Internal Customer Service Plan.
  • The level of demand for services through Irish in order to assess where resources could be targeted in the future.

4.3 Review

4.3.1  Under Section 15 Subsections (1) and (2) a public body is required to conduct a review of its scheme upon receipt of a notice in writing from the Minister, and to prepare, draft and present a new scheme to the Minister within the time specified in his notice.

4.3.2 The scheme should set out how the body plans to review the scheme in place and which division will be appointed for the duration of any scheme to conduct monitoring. The scheme should indicate the timeframe for evaluating progress at regular intervals, within the 3-year duration of the first scheme. It should be a structured and continuing activity. The opinions of external and internal customers may be ascertained for purposes of establishing their reactions to the first scheme. The scheme should set out how the body will use any information received from such monitoring and consultation to draft a new scheme. The team or per son with responsibility for monitoring the existing scheme may be best placed to draft the new scheme, drawing on the results of these consultations.

Appendix 1

Some terms as defined by Section 2(1) of the Act

''draft scheme'' means a draft scheme to be prepared by a public body under this Act;

''enactment'' means a statute or an instrument made under a power conferred by a statute;

''Gaeltacht area'' means an area for the time being determined to be a Gaeltacht area by order made under Section 2 of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act

1956;

''head'' means the head of a public body;

''the Minister'' means the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs;

''the official languages'' means the Irish language (being the national language and the first official language) and the English language (being a second official language) as specified in Article 8 of the Constitution;

''public body'' shall be construed in accordance with the First Schedule;

''a scheme'' means a scheme confirmed by the Minister under Section 14;

''service'' means a service offered or provided (whether directly or indirectly) to the general public or a class of the general public by a public body.

Appendix 2

REQUEST FOR SUBMISSIONS
OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACT 2003
- PREPARATION OF A DRAFT SCHEME
BY [NAME OF BODY]

The latest date for receipt of representations is 5 p.m. on date.The [name of body] proposes to draft a scheme in accordance with Section 11 of the Official Languages Act 2003. The primary objective of the Act is to ensure better availability and a higher standard of public services through Irish.

[name of body] now wishes to invite representations in relation to the preparation of the draft scheme from any interested parties. Submissions should ideally not exceed 4,000 words (c. 8 pages). Ideally submissions, which will be made available on the Department's website, should be forwarded electronically to [name of body].ie.

Alternatively, they may be posted to.....
Information in relation to the mandate and role / services provided to the public by [name of public body] is available on www.[name of public body].ie.

The latest date for receipt of representations is 5 p.m. on date.
Further information in relation to the Act is available on the Department of Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs website www.pobail.ie or by E-mail request to
achtteanga@pobail.ie

2. Scheme of the Department >>>