The commencement of certain provisions of the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021 has been announced today by the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, T.D., and by the Minister of State for the Gaeltacht, Patrick O'Donovan, T.D. The Sections in question are 2 (b) and (c), 7, 9, 10, 11, 15, 18 and 19.
Minister Catherine Martin recently signed the Statutory Instrument to bring these provisions into force on 13 March 2023. Some of these Sections are technical amendments to the Act but, in addition to those, there are two significant provisions, Section 9 and Section 10, which are worth highlighting.
A process has been laid down under Section 9 of the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021 in relation to the publication of the language standards that will be introduced under the Act. It is laid down in that section that the Minister must consult with public bodies regarding the draft standards and they have been published. There will be a 3 month consultation period from the date of publication. The draft standards will also be published on the Department's website to give the general public an opportunity to comment on them. The drafting of the standards is currently underway in the Ministers’ Department and will be published later in the year.
Under the Official Languages Act 2003, the functions of the Language Commissioner include monitoring compliance with the Act by public bodies. Section 10 of the 2021 Act amends Section 21 of the Principal Act by giving the Commissioner an additional monitoring function. As a result of this, An Coimisinéir Teanga will now monitor the compliance of public bodies with any other legislation relating to the status or use of Irish and/or English, where appropriate, for example: the Road Traffic Act, 1961, The Garda Síochána Act, 2005, the Transport Act 1950, the Broadcasting Act, 2009, the Planning and Development Act, 2000 and the Education Act, 1998 to name a few.
Speaking today, Minister Martin said:
"I am delighted to announce today that my Department is engaged in ongoing work to implement the provisions of the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021. These provisions, when implemented, will boost the use of the Irish language in the State System - something that is at the heart of this legislation and which is of benefit to the Gaeltacht and Irish-speaking communities."
Minister of State O’Donovan said:
"It is clear that there is a positive road ahead for the Irish language in the future as the provisions of the Act come into force. It will give an opportunity to those who work in public bodies and to speakers of Irish within and outside the Gaeltacht to use the language in everyday life in the coming years."
The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media intends to continue the work to bring all the provisions of the Act into effect on a phased basis between now and the end of 2023.