Claims of bullying at Leinster House translation unit

Demand for investigation after half translators seek transfers amid allegations of stalking

The Seanad Chamber. The translation office provides the official translations of the Acts of the Oireachtas and translation of material for the Order Papers of both Dáil and Seanad. Photograph: Alan Betson

The Seanad Chamber. The translation office provides the official translations of the Acts of the Oireachtas and translation of material for the Order Papers of both Dáil and Seanad. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Houses of the Oireachtas are facing demands to appoint an independent investigator to examine allegations of harassment and bullying within the translation unit in Leinster House.

The Irish Times has learned multiple grievances have been lodged by and against several staff members in Rannóg an Aistriúcháin, the Oireachtas translation office, and claims of stalking and threatening correspondence have been made.

It has also emerged 11 of the 21 translators have sought transfers from the office, while two staff are on long-term sick leave.

The translation office provides the official translations of the Acts of the Oireachtas and translation of material for the Order Papers of both Dáil and Seanad.

Documents released under Freedom of Information law to this paper contain allegations that a number of errors and omissions have made their way into legislation when Bills are translated from English to Irish.

If a conflict arises between the Irish and English versions, the text in Irish prevails and the Irish Act has the force of the law.

Members of staff have alleged their superiors allowed approximately 100 errors to appear in one piece of legislation, while they say spelling mistakes, inconsistencies in the use of terms and variations of the names used were identified in Acts from 2010-2014.

In one letter on October 11th, 2016, a member of the translation unit alleged their superior was withholding work-related information from them, and had used aggressive language when such details were requested.

The staff member said such action was offensive and inappropriate, and requested an end to threatening correspondence which had been issued against them.

Further correspondence was sent on October 25th, 2016, alleging they were threatened with disciplinary action for seeking information from their superiors.

Stalked

In another email, dated July 26th, 2016, a staff member alleged they were being stalked by colleagues. The worker alleged their phone calls were being monitored by other members of the translation unit.

It has also emerged a protected disclosure containing similar allegations was made last year to Peter Finnegan, the chief executive of the Oireachtas Commission and the clerk of the Dáil. This is believed to have contained claims of a culture of secrecy, unfair promotions and a lack of accountability within the unit.

A motion at a recent Impact trade union conference called for an investigation. The motion, which requested the Houses of the Oireachtas to commission a report into the wellbeing of staff, similar to one carried out in the National Museum of Ireland, was passed.

The Houses are not bound by such a motion but the trade union is expected to bring it to management’s attention.

The Houses of the Oireachtas declined to comment on the substance of the allegations or whether it would appoint an investigator.

A spokeswoman said: “You will appreciate that industrial relations issues as they arise in the workplace are dealt with under existing, agreed Civil Service procedures and mechanisms.

“Moreover, the Houses of the Oireachtas service has a long-established policy whereby it does not comment on matters relating to its staff.

“Regarding your query regarding protected disclosures made to a prescribed person in accordance with legislation, these, if and when received, are treated in full confidentiality by the Houses of the Oireachtas Service.”

The translation office is tasked with providing the official translations of the Acts of the Oireachtas and translation of material for the Order Papers of both Houses.