Delay in translating law into Irish stalled commencement of in camera legislation

Legislation to allow reporting on family and childcare cases set back six months

A commencement order to bring the law into effect had to be couriered for signature to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, who was abroad on holiday over the Christmas break, to have it ready in time for the new legal term in January.

A commencement order to bring the law into effect had to be couriered for signature to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, who was abroad on holiday over the Christmas break, to have it ready in time for the new legal term in January.

Tue, May 6, 2014, 01:00

A six-month delay in commencing legislation to allow media reporting on family and childcare cases was caused by difficulties getting the law translated into Irish, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Acts.

A commencement order to bring the law into effect had to be couriered for signature to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, who was abroad on holiday over the Christmas break, to have it ready in time for the new legal term in January.

The Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act was signed into law at the end of July 2013. It included a section relaxing the privacy rules in family law and childcare cases to allow journalists report on them on a limited basis.

At the time, Mr Shatter said he would commence the section shortly, but it was not brought into effect until January 12th this year.

Documents released to The Irish Times show because the new legislation included provisions for a new criminal offence, it had to be translated into Irish before it could be commenced.


Official inquiries
In early October 2013, when the translation had not been produced by the translation service in the Houses of the Oireachtas, Rannóg Aistriucháin an Oireachtas, Mr Shatter’s private secretary Chris Quattrociocchi inquired

when it would be ready, according to the files.

The following month, documents show Mr Shatter “indicated again he wants the various provisions commenced asap” and Mr Quattrociocchi contacted the translation service directly.

“They said it is being prioritised but . . . might be physically impossible to do it by January 1st ,” his email to the Department of Justice civil law reform division said. Another internal email, on December 5th, noted “the people working on it are in Brussels all week”.

The judiciary also queried the delays.

In an email on December 12th, president of the District Court Judge Rosemary Horgan inquired through her judicial assistant about when the legislation would commence, documents show. She was told the department had asked the translation service to have it ready prior to the beginning of the new legal term on January 13th.

“To date they have not indicated whether this is possible or not,” the email to her said.

Press releases and the commencement order, an official document requiring the signature of the Minister before the law could come into effect, were prepared in advance in the hope the translation would be completed.


Oireachtas website
An email o

n December 18th said the Minister was anxious to commence the provisions and they hoped to have it in time for the new term.

“If all works out, we will courier the order over to the minister on his holidays as we can commence with immediate effect once he has signed it,” it said.

A further email on January 10th announced the legislation had finally been translated and was on the Oireachtas website.

At that stage the Minister had received the commencement order. An email to him on January 9th said the documents, including draft press releases, would arrive by “Fed-Ex”.

“All going well they should reach you just before midday (your time),” it said.

The courts were told of the commencement on January 10th and formally written to on January 15th, two days after the media began covering the family courts.