Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Revenue Language Scheme: "Setting goals containing work already complete is simply dishonest”

The new language scheme for the Office of the Revenue Commissioners under the Official Languages Act 2003 comes into effect today, 04 June 2013. When the Official Languages Act was first introduced in 2003, the language schemes, which are agreed by public bodies and set out their commitments towards Irish language services, were seen as an integral part of the legislation.

Ironic question in view of latest
Revenue Commissioners' Scheme!
Umbrella body for the Irish language voluntary sector, Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, has expressed concern in the past about how these schemes have been agreed, effected and implemented, and the latest scheme by the Office of the Revenue Commissioner does little to quell their concern.

In April of this year, Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge highlighted the second language scheme of the Department of Education and Skills and demonstrated that not only did the scheme fail to build on the first scheme, but in fact it revoked many of the original commitments.

Like the language scheme of the Department of Education and Skills, the first scheme by the Office of the Revenue Commissioners expired in 2008, and it has taken five years for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to ratify the successive scheme.

Also similarly to the language scheme of the Department of Education and Skills, an emerging over-arching reluctance across state services towards the implementation of the Official Languages Act is displayed in the new scheme with phrases such as “subject to resources being available” and “as resources permit” appearing after many commitments.

Excuses, escape clauses and caveats are all too common in the latest scheme. In relation to the Revenue website, it is stated that: “Where content is not available in Irish, a link to the English content will be provided, together with an appropriate explanation to the customer. This link will indicate that the destination page will be in English only”. No elaboration is made as to what “appropriate explanation” might entail, or as to how a user of the site could possibly understand what parts of the site are to be made available in Irish and what parts will be available in English only.

The second scheme commits again to the provision of 20% of pressreleases to be delivered simultaneously in Irish and English on the Revenue website, and a commitment is declared to ensure at least one Irish language advertisement will be deployed for every ten English language advertisements published in any Revenue campaign.

Thirty specific publications are listed in the second scheme, with the goal of having all 30 publications available bilingually by 2016.

Director of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, Kevin De Barra, claims the scheme lacks integrity and says “the scheme contradicts the essence of the Official Languages Act 2003. The new scheme contains so many caveats and conditions, that the power of the Coimisinéir Teanga, to ensure compliance, has now been diminished. A goal of 30 specific publications has been set for 2016, of which 80% are currently available to the public. Setting goals containing work already complete is simply dishonest”.

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