Call to equip Leinster House with Irish translation facilities

Committee told contribution in Irish was ‘diminished’ due to lack of translation services

Mr Ó hEaghra addresses the Joint Committee on Education and Skills. He called on the chair to ensure that the translation service would be made available in the future. Photograph: Screengrab/

Oireachtas committee rooms should be equipped with translation facilities for the Irish language, Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin has said.

Ms Martin, who is a member of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills, made the call following a committee meeting in Leinster House on Tuesday at which an attendee said he felt his contribution was "diminished" because of the lack of translation services.

Caoimhín Ó hEaghra, general secretary of school patron body An Foras Pátrúnachta, made his comments during a discussion of the Equal Status Act at a meeting of the joint committee.

Following a submission in Irish Mr Ó hEaghra asked if a live translation service was available and whether those present could understand what he had said.


Committee chair Fianna Fáil TD Fiona O'Loughlin apologised for the absence of a translation service and said that following a query at a previous meeting it emerged that only one of the committee rooms has a translation facility.

“It is not good enough,” she added.

Speaking in English, Mr Ó hEaghra said “I have been coming into these committees since 2009 … and we have encountered this issue with translation before and I don’t understand why the issue is not addressed.

“I appreciate that while some deputies - and probably all deputies here - can understand Irish and converse … and engage with us when we present as Gaeilge (but) I feel that our contribution to the debate is diminished because of the lack of opportunity for deputies or for other attendees to have an understanding of the points that we are making.

Mr Ó hEaghra said he felt it was “important” that his presentation would be delivered in Irish.

However, he said he was “conscious” of the difficulty for some deputies and attendees “engaging with what we have to say” and called on the chair and other committee members to ensure that the translation service would be made available in the future.

“Please, engage with whatever officers or whoever is responsible for this and rectify the situation,” Mr Ó hEaghra told the committee.

Speaking after the meeting, Ms Martin said: “It is astounding that although the Irish Constitution stipulates that the Irish language is the national language, the first official language,” three of the four Committee rooms do not have translation facilities for Irish.

“It is simply unacceptable that the Irish language, our official first language is being treated with such disdain.

"At a time when the Irish language is being treated by some parties in Northern Ireland with little respect, the Oireachtas can be much more proactive leading from the front as it rightfully should, in this and many other tangible and meaningful ways which promote the native tongue and which does not treat the Irish language which such insulting, inferior disregard," she said.

Ms Martin has written to facilities section of the Houses of the Oireachtas to request that all Committee rooms are equipped with translation facilities.

"I have also written to Minister Sean Kyne, Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs and Natural Resources requesting him to seek to have this issue resolved as a matter of priority," she added.

The Dublin Rathdown TD said the Oireachtas “should be a place where leadership is shown when it comes to promoting and nurturing our national language”.

She said that “such Irish language shortcomings in Leinster House send out the wrong signal and is demoralising for so many people who work tirelessly to promote our native tongue”.

Last month, an expert witness to an Oireachtas committee who chose to give evidence in Irish was forced to use English when it was discovered that the translation system was not in operation.

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Iriseoir agus Eagarthóir Gaeilge An Irish Times. Éanna Ó Caollaí is The Irish Times' Irish Language Editor, editor of The Irish Times Student Hub, and Education Supplements editor.