Irish place-names to have equal status as implementation of new language act gets underway
Dépêche de EUROLANG

Publié le 27/11/03 7:15 -- mis à jour le 00/00/00 00:00

by Eoghan Ó Néill

Irish place-names for many counties in the Republic of Ireland have now equal status with English for the first time after the implementation of an section of the Official Languages Act 2003. This is the first element of the Languages Act 2003 to be implemented and has raised hopes that other sections will be effected soon.

While Irish language place-names were given official status under legislation enacted in 1973 the English version of placenames remained the only legal version until today - even in Gaeltacht areas. When Minister Eamann Ó Cuív became aware of this he incorporated the 1973 legislation with strong amendments into the Official Languages Act 2003, which was enacted in the Dáil in autumn this year.

In the case that the Minister makes an Order regarding place-names in the Gaeltacht the English name ceases to have any legal force or effect. While this is without prejudice to any private use and most public use of the English version, the Act provides that the English version may not be used in future in Acts of the Oireachtas (Parliment) on road and street signs or on Ordnance Survey Maps.

The new law establishes that when the Minister makes an Order in respect of a placename outside the Gaeltacht the Irish and English versions of the placename will have equal legal force and effect.

Under the Orders which the Minister has recently effected the Irish language versions of place-names for seven counties outside the Gaeltacht, County Kilkenny, County Louth, County Limerick, County Monaghan, County Waterford (except the Gaeltacht), and County Offaly, are now designated as being of equal legal standing with the English language versions.

Within the next 4 weeks Minister O Cuív intends to declare the Gaeltacht areas as well as Dublin, Galway and Tipperary. According to Minister Ó Cuív, ‘Certainly, it is necessary to make this change without prejudice to any day to day usage, correspondence, land registration, prosecution or any other matter or to the wishes of the local community’.

‘But in truth, if the local community wishes to use ‘Gaoth Dobhair’, ‘Dún Chaoin’, ‘Casla’, ‘Tír an Fhia’, or ‘Cor na Móna’, I see no reason for anybody else to say that these are not the placenames of these places.’Mr Ó Cuív told Eurolang.

The development will mean that voters in the Gaeltacht will have their addresses printed in Irish on their polling cards for the first time. This is the first element of the Official Languages Act to be implemented. Although the legislation has been enacted by the Oireachtas the implementation of the various elements of the legislation will take time.

One of the primary elements is the establishment of a Language Commissioner who will monitor and report on the implementation of the Act. Minister Ó Cuív has stated that the Commissioner will be appointed early in the New Year.

Eurolang? is a specialist niche news agency covering topics related to lesser-used languages, linguistic diversity, stateless nations and national minorities within the European Union. It provides an expanding on-line daily service across Europe, to NGOs, the media, European, State and local government, academia, researchers and the general public. The purpose of Eurolang is to provide, on a daily basis, relevant and current news about Europe's regional, stateless and minority language communities, numbering some 46 million speakers, to the general public and to national and regional media (newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, internet media) in Europe and worldwide.
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