Thursday, 30 March 2006
Irish Language: Statements.
John Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
I am afraid my Irish is not good enough to make a speech. On the issue of translation costs as they pertain in particular to local authorities and other State bodies, I got involved in the matter because a senior council official brought to my attention the amount of money it spent on translation costs for the county development plan approximately 18 months ago. He could not believe the delays and the costs, which came to €30,000 or €40,000.
At the time I was given the opportunity by The Irish Times to write a column about the issue. This was after the former headmaster of my secondary school had approached me. He could not understand why people were spending money on translation costs when the secondary school I attended was located beside a Gaelscoil. It had a stream in the secondary school that brought students up to second year, after which it got no funding and was forced to discontinue the course. After second year the Department of Education and Science would not fund the stream. People who wanted to complete their leaving certificate through Irish were prevented from doing so. He asked a fair question. Why, in God's name, are we spending money on translating into Irish documents that nobody ever reads in English and at the same time a student who wants to complete his leaving certificate through Irish cannot do so?
It is true that Fine Gael voted for the Official Languages Act. However, it is about time the Minister and others admitted they made some mistakes. Some of the provisions in the Act are not helping the Irish language and are rather detracting from it and doing it no favours. Interestingly I met representatives of Dungarvan Town Council a few weeks ago and the same thing happened. They are preparing the town development plan and are badly delayed because of translation issues. This is happening two years after the fact. While we were promised that translation would be streamlined and these delays would not occur, it is not the case. The Minister can check with the local authority. The translation issue has not been addressed and it is still causing major delays in a document that is essentially the most important planning document that a town council handles every five years.
I tabled a question that was disallowed by the Ceann Comhairle today. I wanted the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to outline how much money each local authority spends on translation. The question was disallowed, as the Minister does not have remit in these areas. If the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government does not have remit over local authorities, I do not know who does.
We were told that only major documents would need to be translated. However, this is not the case. Local authorities are interpreting the requirement differently. Two or three weeks ago I got a letter regarding bin charges from Waterford County Council. It was printed in English on one side and Irish on the other. I contacted a representative of the council, who felt that, because the Government had lost the plot, the council was obliged to translate such items. It is not just major documents such as the draft development plan and the development plan. The council is translating much more than that. It is costing it money and causing delays.