The Pettiness Of Casual Discrimination In Ireland

From the Irish Times, a story about a seemingly causal act of unthinking discrimination that actually reveals quiet a lot about the thinking of those who regulate and govern our lives:

“NEW INFORMATION signs provided to taxi drivers to display in their vehicles could be in breach of the Official Languages Act, Foras na Gaeilge has said.

The signs, posted to drivers this month by the National Transport Authority, are in English only and are replacing bilingual signs already on display in taxis.

Designed to be handled and read by passengers, they include information on fares, lost property and how to recognise a licensed driver.

The cards they replace had dense text in English on one side and in Irish on the reverse.

The Official Languages Act 2003 requires that public bodies produce signs and stationery in Irish as well as English. A breach of the Act can be investigated by An Coimisinéir Teanga (Language Commissioner).

Brendan MacCraith [or Breandán Mac Craith to his family and friends], spokesman for Foras na Gaeilge, the body responsible for the promotion of the Irish language, said the authority could be in breach of the Official Languages Act by failing to provide the information in both languages.

“If the signs were previously bilingual and are now in English only, that is a retrograde step,” he said.

The point of the legislation was that people who wanted to use Irish would not have to request something special.

“The whole idea is to make the service more freely available and not an extra,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the authority said the new signs were in fact “information cards”.

The authority used the Irish language on its stationery and signs, in accordance with legislation, but the “information cards” were “neither stationery nor signs”.

She said they were “cards that drivers make available to their customers by putting them in the seat pockets in the back of the vehicle or anywhere else within easy reach of the customer”.

“They were not therefore produced in Irish,” she said.”

Well of course not.

Isn’t it amazing to see the Irish civil service following the exact letter of the law? Of course, they weren’t quite so discerning during the boom years of the Celtic Tiger, but hey, better late than never.

And what a wonderful interpretation of the law they make. Information cards are not stationery? And to take things further, information signs are not, in fact, signs? As my sister would say: ‘mazeballs!

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