Official Languages Act
The Official Languages Act 2003 was signed into law on 14th July 2003. The primary objective of the Act is to ensure the improved provision of public services through the Irish language.
The Act provides for the delivery of public services in Irish in three ways:
• through provisions of the Act which are applicable to all public bodies under the Act;
• through regulations made by the Minister for ulture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht which again are applicable to all public bodies under the Act; and
• through language schemes which are agreed with individual public bodies which provide for an increase over time in the number and standard of services provided in Irish by these individual public bodies.
The Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga was established under the Act in 2004. The primary functions of the Office are to monitor compliance by public bodies with the provisions of the Act and to take appropriate measures to ensure such compliance.
Provisions of the Act
The primary objective of the Official Languages Act 2003 is to ensure better availability and a higher standard of public services through Irish.
This will be principally achieved by placing a statutory obligation on Departments of State and Public Bodies to make specific provision for delivery of such services in a coherent and agreed fashion through a statutory planning framework, known as a "scheme", to be agreed on a three year renewable basis between the head of the body concerned and the Minister. Schemes remain in force for 3 years and thereafter fall to be renewed. The intention is that this renewal process will be used to secure a significant improvement in the level of public services available through Irish over time, as demand requires.
The Act also specifies some basic general provisions of universal applicability or Direct Duties on Departments of State and Public Bodies that relate to, for example, correspondence to be replied to in the language in which it was written, providing information to the public in the Irish language, or in the Irish and English languages, bilingual publications of certain key documents etc.
In accordance with the Regulations of the Official Languaes Act, Public Bodies have a duty to ensure that their stationery, signage and recorded oral announcements are provided in Irish or bilingually by specific dates set out under the Regulations.