Senior official apologises for incorrect name for Ireland on Covid travel cert

Senator says Irish language on cert translates to holder having Covid-19

A senior Department of Health official has apologised for the use of an incorrect name for the country on Ireland's version of the European Union's Digital Covid Certificate (DCC) for foreign travel.

The certs were issued with the name "Republic of Ireland" rather than the official name of the country under the constitution which is Éire or Ireland.

The Oireachtas Committee on Health was also told that people with Irish names that received DCCs with badly corrupted spellings, or with no síneadh fada will have to contact the busy helpline to have them re-issued.

Both issues were raised by Fianna Fáil Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee who also highlighted how not all of the content of the travel documents have been translated into Irish. She also said some of the translation is incorrect and actually suggests the holder of the DCC has Covid-19.


Muiris O’Connor, an Assistant Secretary General at the Department of Health said he wanted to acknowledge the error in the incorrect use of the name of the country and said: “It is being corrected going forward.” He said that when the paper certs are scanned into the Covid digital app it automatically corrects the name of the country.

Mr O’Connor also said the Department of Health was the issuing authority and highlighted the “pace of work” to prepare the certs. “That was an oversight that I am sorry for,” he said of the country name error.

Ms Clifford-Lee said that eight lines of the document are not in compliance with the “legal requirement” that State documents by bi-lingual.

Mr O’Connor said the structure of the form is “fixed”. He argued that there is a “balance” of Irish and English in the form and it would be “unwise” to adjust it given that it is recognised all over the EU.

Ms Clifford-Lee disagreed that there is a balance and she added that some of the translation “isn’t even correct” and there’s “a number of big errors”.

She said: “For example, the line there – disease, or agent targeted – is completely incorrectly translated. And actually, the Irish meaning of that is that the person that holds the certificate has Covid-19.”

She was told by Government officials that they would get back to her on the points raised.

Earlier Ms Clifford Lee raised how people with Irish names got “scrambled” versions of them on their DCCs which she said has “caused a great level of upset and distress”. She asked when the correct certs would be issued to them.

Barry Lowry from the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer said the issue is being fixed but that people who have been affected will have to call the helpline to have their DCC re-issued as it is not known who has received incorrect certs.

Ms Clifford Lee said this is “completely unacceptable” because “the mistake wasn’t made by those people and they shouldn’t have to go out of their way to go back and correct your mistake.”

She referred to the difficulties in terms of the volume of calls being fielded by the call centre more broadly and asked if a dedicated phone line will be set up.

She was told there is a resolution process in place.

Ms Clifford-Lee said: “Given the upset that has been caused by this and the complete lack of respect for our first language of this country. I would suggest that a dedicated line be set up.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times