Public Affairs

An Ghaeilge chun cinn: The Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021

With recent announcements surrounding the establishment of new arms of the State such as Uisce Éireann, Coimisiún na Meán, and An Coimisiún Toghcháin, the recommitment of the State to name its official bodies i nGaeilge has been remarked upon. This move is “in the spirit” of the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021.

“It is appropriate that on legal separation, Irish Water should be known as Uisce Éireann which is in the spirit of the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021,” Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien TD said in his July 2022 announcement that the water utility would be renamed upon its split from its parent body, Ervia.

On the same day as O’Brien’s announcement of the shake-up in water management, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin TD was announcing the Government’s response to the report issued by the Future of Media Commission. This response, Martin announced, would be overseen by a newly established media regulator, Coimisiún na Meán, which would oversee the implementation of the report’s recommendations.

The Electoral Reform Bill 2022, currently progressing through the Seanad following its progression through the Dáil, initially was stated to “provide for the establishment of the Electoral Commission”; it now reads that it “provide[s] for the establishment of An Coimisiún Toghcháin” following amendments on the Dáil floor.

The recommitment of the State to naming its bodies in the native language has come in the wake of the signing into law of the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021 in December 2021, which was hailed as an “historic day for the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht communities”, with Minister of State for the Gaeltacht and Sport Jack Chambers TD stating: “A new era is in store for the relationship between the Irish language and Gaeltacht community and the public service.”

The naming of new statutory bodies is committed to in section 9D (1) of the Act, where it is explicitly stated that any new body established after the commencement of the Act “shall be [named] in the Irish language”, with section 9C (1) of the Act stating that a public body, “where it is renewing or altering its logo, ensure that text that forms part of the new or altered logo shall be in the Irish language or in both the Irish and English languages”, with section 9C (2) adding that the Irish language shall appear before the English language and not be less prominent, visible, or legible than the English.

Following years of gradual naming of statutory bodies in English, Irish Water and Ervia not least among them, the same-day announcements of O’Brien and Martin signalled a government that has taken this recommitment to Gaeilge on board as it seeks to deliver on its aim of vastly improving the presence of the native language in the public service.

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