Official Languages Act (Ireland)

Official Languages Act (Ireland)

The Official Languages Act 2003 (or in Irish, Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003)(the "OLA") is an Act of the Oireachtas of Ireland. The OLA sets out rules regarding use of the Irish language by public bodies, establishes the office of An Coimisinéir Teanga to monitor and enforce compliance by public bodies with the provisions of the OLA and makes provision for the designation of official Irish language versions of placenames and the removal of the official status of English placenames in the Gaeltacht.

Placenames under the OLA

On 30 October 2003, Part 5 of the OLA came into effect. Under Part 5, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, having received and considered advice from An Coimisiún Logainmneacha, may by Ministerial Order (a "Placename Order") declare the Irish language version of a placename specified in a Placename Order. The principal legal effects of a Placename Order are one or other of the following:

*in respect of any placename outside the Gaeltacht, the Irish and the English versions of the placename have the same status and the same legal force and effect; and

*in respect of a placename in the Gaeltacht, the Irish version of the placename has legal force and effect while the English version of the placename has none. [Section 33, [ Official Languages Act 2003] , No. 32 of 2003]

Any Placename Order is without prejudice to private use of the Irish or English language versions of a placename. In many cases, it is also without prejudice to public use of a placename. However, where a Placename Order is made in respect of placenames in the Gaeltacht, the English version of such placenames cannot be used in three instances: in future Acts of the Oireachtas; in road or street signs erected by or on behalf of a local authority; and in Statutory Instruments. [Section 33, [ Official Languages Act 2003] , No. 32 of 2003] Under Irish law, a "Statutory Instrument" includes "an order, regulation, rule, bye-law, warrant, licence, certificate, direction, notice, guideline or other like document made, issued, granted or otherwise created by or under an Act [of the Oireachtas and certain pre-Irish constitution Acts] ". [ Section 2, [ Interpretation Act 2005] , No. 23 of 2005]

The Minister has now made several Placename Orders. Notably, on 28 March 2005, the Minister made the Placenames (Ceantair Ghaeltachta) Order 2004. [ [ Placenames (Ceantair Ghaeltachta) Order 2004] . All of the Placename Orders made by the Minister may be obtained at [ An Coimisinéir Teanga's website] ] This Placename Order was in respect of placenames in the Gaeltacht and therefore, one of its effects was to remove all legal force and effect from the English language version of hundreds of placenames. [Section 33, [ Official Languages Act 2003] , No. 32 of 2003] As a result, today towns such as those formerly officially known as Belmullet, Dingle, and Spiddal are now, in law, only known as Béal an Mhuirthead, An Daingean and An Spidéal.


External links

*en icon [ Official Languages Act 2003]
*ga icon [ Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003]

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