Wednesday 16 October 2019

Proposals for 'plain language' forms from State agencies

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Picture: Collins
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Picture: Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

FORMS and documents produced by government and State agencies would be required to be written in plain language under proposed new laws.

Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin launched his party's Bill on the issue today, saying nearly 18pc of the adult population is functionally illiterate and the State: "must work harder to make all public services accessible."

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock is also introducing his own Bill on the issue and said that while some government forms are already in accessible language "it’s clear we need a universal standard across all Departments".

Both parties have been working with the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) to develop the proposals.

NALA director Inez Bailey said similar laws were introduced in the United States by former president Barack Obama.

She said plain English "benefits everyone" not just the approximately 550,000 adults with literacy difficulties.

At the launch of the Labour Party Bill, Michael Power (55), a NALA literacy ambassador, spoke of his own experience of returning to education in his early 30s to improve his literacy.

Mr Power, who had left school at 16, decided to do this because he felt excluded from his children's education when he couldn't help with their homework.

He said the proposed Labour Bill is a "brilliant opportunity" and that he hopes it goes further and "changes people's lives".

Mr Ó Ríordáin said: "“Literacy is an equality issue. It greatly limits the capacity of an individual to participate fully in Irish society."

He said efforts must be made to end illiteracy but while doing this "we can also tackle the reasons why many feel isolated from the mechanisms of official Ireland".

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