The Revenue Commissioners failed in their statutory bilingual duty when they sent out only the English language version of an information booklet on the local property tax, it has been claimed in the High Court.
The Revenue is appealing a decision by the Office of the Language Commissioner that it had breached the Official Languages Act 2003 by failing to communicate bilingually when it sent 1.7 million booklets to households in February 2013.
The court heard versions of the booklet in both English and Irish were published.
However, only the English version was sent out, along with a letter and an application form, unless the householder had specifically registered to conduct their business with Revenue through Irish.
Only a few thousand households received the Irish language version.
In what is the first appeal against against a decision of the Language Commissioner, the court heard the commissioner received a number of complaints because under the 2003 Act, public bodies are obliged to communicate bilingually “with the public in general”.
Ben Ó Floinn, for Revenue, said the parcels sent to 1.7 million households last year were not communications with the public in general because each information parcel was addressed to a specific citizen, whose name was written clearly on the envelope along with the words “Private and Confidential”.
Séamus Ó Tuathail, for the Language Commissioner, said it was accepted each letter was a private communication but the accompanying booklet was a public communication of the sort that should always be made bilingually.
The case is being heard, in Irish, before Mr Justice Colm Mac Eochaidh.