Eircode system non-compliant on Gaeltacht place-names, report finds

Recommendations of An Coimisinéir Teanga after 2015 inquiry not satisfactorily implemented

Commercial companies often use the English version of addresses in Gaeltacht areas by default when an address is requested through the Eircode system.

Commercial companies often use the English version of addresses in Gaeltacht areas by default when an address is requested through the Eircode system.

 

The Eircode system continues to be non-compliant in relation to Gaeltacht place-names, according to a report from An Coimisinéir Teanga.

The commissioner Rónán Ó Domhnaill is to place the matter before the Houses of the Oireachtas, according to a monitoring report published by his office on Tuesday.

The Monitoring Report for 2020-2021 measures the implementation of recommendations made in previous investigations carried out by the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga.

Mr Ó Domhnaill found that Gaeltacht place-names continue to be used in English by Eircode along with the official Irish versions, and that recommendations made by his office following an initial investigation in 2015 have not been satisfactorily implemented.

The result is that commercial companies often use the English version of addresses in Gaeltacht areas by default when an address is requested through the Eircode system.

Mr Ó Domhnaill, whose role includes ensuring compliance by public bodies with statutory obligations under language legislation, said attempts have been made to achieve a solution, but that “these efforts have been to no avail”.

The statutory responsibility lies with the Department of the Environment and not upon Eircode itself or An Post, as the Department is responsible for granting and regulating the Eircode contract.

Mr Ó Domhnaill said he notified the Department that his office is still receiving complaints from members of the public regarding bodies continuing to use their addresses in English.

“I am laying a report before the Houses of the Oireachtas on the non-compliance of the Eircode system with a provision in the Department’s language scheme in relation to Gaeltacht place-names.”

Local authorities

Questionnaires were sent to the chief executives of 10 local authorities selected for an audit programme in 2020. None was fully compliant with commitments made in their language schemes in relation to the provision of websites and interactive services in Irish.

Only two achieved the third highest grade (compliance to a certain degree with scheme commitments) and three of those that engaged were noncompliant with the requirements for the most part.

However, Mr Ó Domhnaill said there is evidence of “continuous improvement” regarding the provision of interactive services on some local authorities’ websites.

He said it is “imperative” that when new services are being proposed that sufficient provision and planning is carried out to ensure that such services are launched in both official languages at the same time.

Mr Ó Domhnaill was also critical of the use of machine translation systems.

“It is necessary to stress that machine translation systems (such as Google Translate) are unacceptable as a default arrangement for official purposes to provide Irish language content on a website.

“Local authorities should strive to ensure that accurate usage and high linguistic standards should pertain to all of their online services in both official languages,” he wrote in the report.

The Coimisinéir Teanga was critical of the approach taken by Cork City, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Offaly, Carlow and Westmeath County Councils.

He said he “deeply disapproved” of the approach adopted during the course of the monitoring process. “Despite the challenges facing the sector nationally, the clear lack of action of the five aforementioned local authorities is not a satisfactory expression of their statutory obligations under the Official Languages Act,” Mr Ó Domhnaill said.

He added that he may take further action on the matter. Proceedings for an offence can be brought by An Coimisinéir Teanga in the event that the Commissioner is hindered or obstructed in the performance of his or her functions.

“That particular provision in the Act has never been used since the office was established but in light of the lack of co-operation from some local authorities I may have no option except to avail of this significant action soon,” Mr Ó Domhnaill said.

The report also examined the language commitments of four Education and Training Boards where Mr Ó Domhnaill found a “mixed level of compliance” regarding statutory obligations under the Official Languages Act.

Kerry Education and Training Board (Kerry ETB) achieved the highest Grade in the Education and Training Boards sector, achieving a grade of “full compliance”, while Louth & Meath ETB and Laois & Offaly ETBs were awarded a grade of “compliance to a certain degree”.

Tipperary ETB had a grade of “non-compliance for the most part”.