The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht was established in 2011 after the re-organisation of departments and a change of government. The Department has responsibility for the conservation, preservation, protection and development of Ireland’s heritage and culture. This includes in particular, the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and Islands.
The Official Languages Act lists public bodies to which it applies. The Minister may add additional public bodies. In broad terms, the legislation applies to government departments and offices, local authorities, the HSE, universities and third-level institutions, agencies, boards and state companies, both commercial and non-commercial.
Public bodies must ensure that their stationery, signage and recorded oral announcements are provided in Irish or bilingually by specific dates.
Signs must be in both languages. The relevant dates by which signs were to be provided in both languages were either March 2009, 2012 or 2013 in most cases. In the case of signs where the sign is in Irish but the Irish text is permanent, the period is the 1st January 2026. A public body is not required to translate to English name of a body if it is already in its Irish name. It is not required to translate brands, person’s names, logos or the names of any other entity other than a public body.
A public body is not required to alter signs that are of artistic, architectural or of historical interest, a sign subject to a preservation order under national monuments legislation, or certain older commemorative plaques.
A public body is not obliged to translate from a language other than English.
Public bodies must ensure that correspondence by post or e-mail sent to them in Irish is replied to in Irish. They must ensure that the information provided to the public in general or to a class of the public via post or e-mail is in Irish or bilingual. It must publish simultaneously documents in the English and Irish setting out public policy, proposals and reports, audited accounts, strategy statements.
A 20-year strategy in the Irish language was published in December 2010 by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. It was based on broad cross-party support. The objective of the strategy was to increase the number of people speaking Irish on a daily basis outside of education from 83,000 to 250,000. It seeks to increase by 25 percent the number of people who speak Irish on a daily basis in the Gaeltacht. It seeks to increase the number of people who use state services through Irish and who can access television, radio and print media through Irish.
The strategy deals with a number of areas of activity.
• the Gaeltacht
• language transmission by the family,
• early intervention,
• media and technology,
• administration services and the community,
• legislation and status,
• economic life,
• cross-cutting initiatives.
The strategy provides for policy objectives.
• The special status given to the Irish language in the Constitution
• The Official Languages Act, the Education Act, Planning Act, and the Broadcasting Acts will be upheld.
• The Official Languages Act will be fully implemented.
• The Irish language community inside and outside the Gaeltacht will be encouraged and supported to transmit Irish to the next generation as a living household language. A wide range of services will be provided in Irish to this end.
• The Gaeltacht will be given special support as an Irish speaking area.
• Irish will be taught as an obligatory subject from primary to Leaving Cert level to promote oral and written competence. It will be supported by enhanced investment in professional development, ongoing support for teachers, as well as provision of textbooks and resources and support for innovative approaches to teaching and learning.
• A high standard of all Irish education will be provided to school students whose parents wish to avail of it. Gaelscoileanna will continue to be supported at the primary level, and all-Irish provision at the post-primary level will be developed to meet follow-on demand.
• Irish language preschool education will continue to be supported and
• Third-level education through Irish will be further developed.
• The State will continue to support Foras na Gaeilge in the context of the British-Irish Agreement 1999.
• High-quality broadcast services through the medium of Irish will be ensured, especially through the continuous development of RTE, Raidio na Gaeltachta and TG4.
• Every assistance will be given to the European Union in implementing the decision to make Irish a working and official language in the EU from 1 January 2007.
• In order to promote Irish nationally and preserve and strengthen it in the Gaeltacht, the work being done by the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs and by agencies under it will continue to be reinforced.
• The use of the Irish language by Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces will be continued and developed.
• The Government recognises the vital role of the Irish language voluntary sector and will continue to support it.
It is emphasised that there were three phases in the strategy. The establishment phase is devoted to the communication of the goals and contents of the strategy and setting up the required organisation and operational structure. The overall resources required will be allocated, and the ongoing monitoring, evaluation, and modification features are to be agreed and established. Operational plans are to be requested and received from the implementing public agency.
The implementation phase. The first years of the strategy would involve long-term measures being put in place so that the supply of qualified teachers and other specialists are available. The systems for the preparation are to be put in place early in the strategy. Materials will be prepared for language, education and literacy.
The second part of the implementing phase was to involve expanding and deepening the language. This was to involve the implementation of relevant measures, undertaking and rolling evaluations, and conduct of campaigns for promoting and fostering positive attitudes to the language.
The third phase was projected to involve consolidation. This would be directed at mainstreaming all measures. It will seek to expand, build on, increase abilities in Irish among the population and expand opportunities to use Irish with the active encouragement of positive attitudes towards Irish.