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Government 'wastes' €1m on translations into Irish

Cabinet ministers are "wasting" hundreds of thousands of euro a year on expensive, unnecessary translations of official documents into Irish, new figures reveal.

Despite having in-house translation services within government departments, figures given to the Sunday Independent show that most have been reliant on highly expensive external translators to provide copies of documents in Irish.

In total, almost €1m of taxpayers' money has gone on producing copies of documents in Irish.

Defending the spending, the lack of language and administrative capacity was blamed this weekend for the outsourcing of so much work by the various departments.

It has emerged that the departments charged with the promotion of the Irish language are among two of the three biggest spenders on expensive outside translators.

Top of the list is Batt O'Keeffe's Department of Education and Science which has spent more than €426,000 since the start of the 30th Dail in 2007 on translation services. School inspectors are expected to have a competent level of fluency but administrative staff in the department are not obliged to have Irish. It was disclosed that:

  • In 2007, the department made 101 payments totalling €124,723 between June 14 and the end of December.
  • In 2008, 139 payments were made at a combined cost of €156,060.
  • In 2009 so far, 84 payments have been made at a combined cost of €146,138.

Mr O'Keeffe said that four of these payments were for more than €10,000 each, 11 were for €5,000-€10,000 each, a total of 77 were for €1,000-€5,000 each and the remainder were for amounts of less than €1,000.

Ironically, the Minister for Gaeltacht and Rural Affairs Eamon O Cuiv and his department have spent a total of €123,000 on external consultants to translate documents into the native tongue.

Another big spender was Mary Hanafin's Department of Social and Family Affairs, which has spent €217,000 on a staggering 754 documents since taking office in 2007.

Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith has spent a whopping €66,000 on the translating of documents into Irish, with huge spends on annual reports and related documents.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has spent €55,906 on producing Irish copies of documents, which included a spend of €40,329 on documents relating to the banking scandal in 2008.

One of the most prolific translators has been Minister Martin Cullen in the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, which has translated over 306 documents at a cost of €45,366. Just behind him is the Minister for the Environment John Gormley, who has had over 150 document translated into Irish since taking office, costing over €42,091, and Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin who spent €41,000.

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At the more modest end of the scale, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey has spent just over €22,000 on translations; Eamon Ryan, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, has spent €20,957 on 25 reports since 2007; Justice Minister Dermot Ahern has spent €13,172, while Defence Minister Willie O'Dea's department has spent €8,193 on 10 separate publications. He also spent €113 of taxpayers' money on getting two press releases translated into Irish.

However, Mr O'Dea's total does not cover costs incurred by the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces or the Civil Defence Board.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Tanaiste Mary Coughlan and former Tanaiste and current Health Minister Mary Harney all failed to provide information on the cost of translations in their departments.

Ms Harney's spend is of most interest, given how much money the HSE has spent on translations in the past two-and-a-half years.

Fine Gael senator Paschal Donohoe who obtained the figures said: "These costs show the need for ministers to make the best use of the 'in-house' translation services in their departments.

Some ministers do make use of these services but others persist in wasting money by using expensive translation services.

"These should only ever be used as a last resort."

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