Department’s Irish language proficiency criticised

Letter from Department of Education subject of complaint to An Coimisinéir Teanga

Letter in the post: the Department of Education has been criticised for the flawed Irish in a letter it sent to a retired teacher.

Letter in the post: the Department of Education has been criticised for the flawed Irish in a letter it sent to a retired teacher.


The Department of Education has been criticised for the poor standard of Irish contained in a letter it sent to a retired teacher regarding pension issues.

A complaint about the letter was one of 13 made to An Coimisinéir Teanga, the Irish language commissioner, about the department’s service in Irish from 2014 to the present.

Email correspondence from the commissioner’s office to the department in March this year indicated a reply issued to the former primary teacher was hard to comprehend because of bad spelling mistakes.

The Irish word for letter was spelled “lotoe” instead of litir, while “ba chíor duit” was written instead of ba chóir duit.

The Office of the Revenue Commissioners was referred to as “na Roinne do Choimmisinéírí Ioncaim” instead of Oifig na gCoimisinéirí Ioncaim.

Statutory duty

An Coimisinéir Teanga’s office said the Department of Education had a statutory duty under the Official Languages Act 2003 when replying to written communication in Irish or English.

It reminded the department that public bodies must ensure they have appropriate systems in place to deal with professional correspondence in Irish.

However, the department said the occurrence of such errors issued in the response to the former staff member are atypical, and were rectified immediately.

Records released by the Department of Education show most of the other complaints about its service in Irish related to the publication and availability of certain forms and documents in English only

Since the beginning of the 2013 academic year, 118 department staff received a combined total of €21,456 in tuition-fee support to do undergraduate, postgraduate and short programmes in Irish.

Earlier this year, 18 employees attended a three-day residential course in the Irish language in Carraroe, Co Galway, costing a total of €3,557, according to a response from the department, issued under the Freedom of Information Act.

The department said such training is available to staff where a “business need is identified”.

Competency levels

A departmental report in April 2013 disclosed that less than 1.5 per cent of its administrative staff had a high level of proficiency in Irish, while 8.7 per cent had “a medium competency”.

The department’s internal Irish Language Scheme 2013-2016 – undertaken to comply with the Official Languages Act – stated it was committed to providing the “best-quality services possible” in Irish and English “to its customers”.

A total of 1,229 people work full-time at the Department of Education and Skills and “Irish language awareness is incorporated into staff induction training”, it said.

The department stated that work on the development of its 2016-2019 Irish Language Scheme began in October last year.

It is proposed that by the end of this year the department will “identify any posts for which Irish language competency is an essential requirement”.