The 5 Key Obligations to be Fulfilled under the Official Languages Act (Amendment) 2021

Written by Foireann Ghaelchultúir March, 2023

The Official Languages Act (Amendment) 2021 has been the source of much media coverage since it was published in December 2021. For over a year, state organisations and employees have been responsible for implementing the new amendments of the act, yet there remains some confusion about the obligations arising from these new amendments.

The 5 Key Obligations to be Fulfilled under the Official Languages Act (Amendment) 2021

Like many other large and lengthy documents, parts of the Official Languages Act can be challenging to digest. To make your job a little easier, the team at Gaelchultúr has read the Act in detail and has compiled a list of the most important things that public sector employees should be aware of as they set out to fulfil their Irish-language obligations.

The Act was developed and published under the direction of the Language Commissioner and his office. The Office of the Language Commissioner is an independent office that acts as an ombudsman service and compliance agency. The goal of this key legislation is to protect and strengthen the Irish language and its community in the coming years. This will be done by improving and standardising the services that public bodies provide to the public through Irish over a period of time. The Act refers to a number of additional provisions required of public bodies and we have taken account of these provisions in the following summary:

1. Recruitment

You’ve probably heard about this exciting amendment by now but in case you haven't, its objective is that 20% of new recruits in the public service should be competent in Irish by the year 2030. This amendment is great news, not just for the language but for the entire Irish-speaking community, who are advantageously positioned to avail of these new employment opportunities.

It’s now more beneficial than ever to brush up on your Irish and achieve accuracy in the language. Between e-learning courses and online Irish courses, there are lots of convenient ways to improve your language ability these days. Take ownership of your career and acquire the appropriate language skills to take advantage of these new job opportunities.

2. Marketing & Branding

An increased emphasis is placed on marketing and advertising through the medium of Irish in the amended Act. A provision was published in the Act in which public bodies are required to have marketing material submitted to a class of the public in Irish. On top of that, it is essential that 20% of their advertising be done in Irish and that at least 5% of the yearly advertising spend be used for the purposes of this advertising; it is essential too that this advertising be published on Irish-language media. A provision was also published to ensure that the logos of public bodies will be in Irish or in Irish and English going forward.

3. Standardised Irish-Language Services

Prior to the publication of the amended Act in December 2021, each state body developed and implemented its own bespoke language scheme but these schemes will be discontinued under the Official Languages Act (Amendment) 2021.

The aim of this provision is to standardise the services and systems provided to the public through the medium of Irish and bilingually. That being said, current language schemes will remain in place until they are replaced by Standards.

4. Consistent Communication

Since the Act was first published in 2003, it is required that all state bodies respond to emails and letters in the same official language (Irish or English) in which they were written. As our communications continue to become more digitalised, new amendments to the legislation require state employees to implement the same practice consistently in communications on social media as well.

In addition, all information shared with the public, including general and specific public marketing, should be in Irish or in Irish and English going forward.

If you are employed in the public sector and you want to improve your communication skills through the medium of Irish, we recommend participating in our Customer Care course, the Certificate in Professional Irish or the Intensive Course in Written Irish.

5. The Fada

It is certain that every Seán and Gráinne in the country is thanking the Commissioner for this particular provision. Under the amended Act, the state's ICT systems will be updated to allow a person's name, address or title to be recorded and used accurately in Irish. The days of GrÃ΄inne are coming to an end, thank goodness!

There is no doubt that the Official Languages Act (Amendment) 2021 is central to a new era for the Irish language. The Irish language is going from strength to strength and we are very much looking forward to seeing how this Act will shape its future.

The Act can be read in its entirety by clicking on this link.

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