Friday 28 October 2016

It's my name, Eircode, but not as I know it

Eircode, or An Post, has gone to the trouble of translating - incorrectly - Concubhar O Liathain's moniker into English. He's determined to know why

Concubhar O Liathain

Published 26/07/2015 | 02:30

'Curiously the letter from Eircode was, apart from my anglicised surname, completely bilingual'
'Curiously the letter from Eircode was, apart from my anglicised surname, completely bilingual'

I joined the Liveline club last week. After years of trying to be sufficiently inconvenienced, impoverished and offended by the over officiousness of officialdom or the crassness of commercial concerns to warrant picking up the phone to 'talk to Joe', I finally crossed my threshold of intolerance.

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It's my name, you see. I got the long heralded letter from Eircode, addressed to "An tAittheoir/The Occupier" and, on the second line, Lehane, the English version of my name. I have never used this version of my name in correspondence or otherwise. It reminds me of a workplace I was employed in during my long-ago teenage years when fellows would refer to me as 'Lehane'. Needless to say it irks me now as it did back then.

I concede my name is a mouthful for most. For those who may have an interest, 'Liathain' is the Irish for 'Lyons' and, interestingly perhaps, in medical parlance, also for 'spleen'. I only learned that recently myself but now realise I have carved a career out of venting my surname in the Irish media.

Curiously the letter from Eircode was, apart from my anglicised surname, completely bilingual. Apparently Eircode had gone to some trouble to discuss the launch of the €27m system in advance with Conradh na Gaeilge and other stakeholders and while they got everything else right, they were caught out when it came to the most basic detail of all, - the name on the envelope.

Of course, it's this very detail which most interests the recipient of any correspondence, a position which was lost on Liam Duggan, CEO of Eircode, who was in the opposite corner during my less than 15 minutes of Liveline fame.

His position, repeated at least three times, was that Eircode had not written to me but to the occupier of my address. According to Liveline host, Philip Boucher-Hayes, this was akin to an angel dancing on the head of a pin, but this made no impression on Liam.

As is so often the case, another caller got in on the act and rather spoiled my fun. I wanted to get to the bottom of how an English version of my name had ended up on a database that is operated by An Post and subsequently used by Eircode to give additional information to the postmen/women who are tasked with delivering the controversial letter.

Was someone in the GPO, the sacred ground on which Ireland first struck for freedom - but not linguistic freedom, obviously - secretly translating the names of troublemaking Gaeilgeoiri to English in order to add insult to injury? And, if so, why and at what cost to the long-suffering taxpayer, the same taxpayer who has been incensed over the years at the trolley loads of cash trundled to translators to convert unread official documents in English to their even more unread versions in the First Official Language.

This reached its peak in the 2008 when I received a news release as Gaeilge from the Department of Finance about the 2007 Budget. In reality, the amount spent on the translation of English-language official documents to Irish was in inverse proportion to the amount of invective from incandescent correspondents to newspapers and radio stations on the topic.

In my book, if it's sauce for the goose, it's sauce for the gander. I am entitled to be as outraged as any other taxpayer if my hard-earned income is used to translate, with no great effect, my names and the names of umpteen others from their preferred Irish versions to their detested English forms. It's for that reason that I dropped the dime on Eircode, who appear to bearing the brunt for the errors of An Post on this occasion, and picked up the phone to talk to Philip.

I don't intend to give up on this quest to find out the source of this injustice and when I do find it, Liveline can expect another call.

Sunday Independent

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