Irish public sector websites get lost in translation

14 Jul 2006

As many as 58pc of Irish public body websites are failing to provide information in the Irish language on their websites in accordance with the Official Languages Act, new research reveals.

The final provisions of the Official Languages Act come into effect today, 14 July, on the third anniversary of its signing into law by the President.

In Ireland, although the Official Languages Act dictates that all public bodies should have plans in place relating to the provision of services through Irish, it allows for varying degrees of translations of websites. However, all official written documentation originating in public and state bodies, including publications and official announcements, should be available in Irish.

An independent survey carried out by PAN Research, on behalf of content-management firm Terminal Four, found that a large proportion of Irish bodies surveyed are not complying with the Act, which places a statutory obligation on public bodies to provide specified services coherently through Irish.

At present, 650 bodies come under the remit of the Act. Fifty Irish sites and a smaller number of Welsh sites were analysed for comparison purposes. Of the sites surveyed, some provided information in a host of other languages, excluding Irish.

“Ireland and Wales face similar challenges in the provision of services and publications in bilingual populations,” Piero Tintori, managing director of Terminal Four said.

“We have helped a host of Irish and Welsh organisations to publish their websites in multiple languages, ensuring that they comply with accessibility standards. Where organisations don’t have language provisions in place it is often because budgets simply won’t support the additional costs of translation.”

Websites were assessed for the level of translation throughout their pages and online publications. Sites surveyed included state bodies, government departments and universities.

The Welsh Language Act 1993 is a set of guidelines for the recommended use of the Welsh language in public bodies across Wales. It does not place any obligation on organisations to utilise the language on their websites. In spite of this, Welsh sites were found to display greater levels of their native language on websites than their Irish equivalents. Overall, 60pc of Welsh bodies compared to 42pc of Irish organisations complied to their respective languages acts.

The results of the survey were announced at the official launch of the new, fully bilingual website of the North East Wales Institute of Higher Education in Wrexham, which was provided by Terminal Four. This website offers full accessibility to services for students, staff and members of the public who wish to use the Welsh language.

By John Kennedy