[lg policy] Agriculture chiefs ordered to release language policy document

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Mon Feb 12 15:34:14 EST 2018

 Agriculture chiefs ordered to release language policy document The name of
fisheries boat 'Banríon Uladh' was changed to 'Queen of Ulster'


Connla Young
12 February, 2018 01:00

   - CAJ <http://www.irishnews.com/tags/CAJ>
   - Daniel Holder <http://www.irishnews.com/tags/Daniel-Holder>
   - FOI <http://www.irishnews.com/tags/FOI>
   - Michelle McIlveen <http://www.irishnews.com/tags/Michelle-McIlveen>

Michelle McIlveen

A STORMONT department which claimed to have a draft ‘single language
policy' has apologised over its failure to confirm when it was created.

The development came after the Information Commissioner ordered officials
at the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to
provide a copy of its policy to the Committee on the Administration of

The Freedom of Information request came after former DUP minister Michelle
McIlveen controversially ordered the name of a fisheries protection vessel
to be changed from the Irish ‘Banríon Uladh' to its English language
version ‘Queen of Ulster' in 2016.

She was later asked to explain the move in an assembly question saying that
“DAERA is a new department with a fresh identity and logo and adopts a
single language policy….”.

When later asked for a copy of the policy by the CAJ the department
initially did not respond.

It subsequently issued a refusal notice after the Information
Commissioner's Office (ICO) intervened, claiming it was entitled to apply
an exemption.

The department later confirmed to the ICO that it held a “draft DAERA
language policy”.

In a letter to the CAJ the commission reveals that while its request for
information was made on September 2016, withheld information subsequently
provided to the ICO was dated November 2016.

Asked to confirm if it held a draft version of any of the documents at the
date of request, the department said the information provided was the only
infomration it held relevant to the request.

The department then apologised to the ICO saying “that it was unable to
state with certainty when the information was created, but confirmed that
it was first saved to its electronic records management system in November

The commission went to say: “In this case the commissioner cannot be
certain whether or not the requested information was in fact held at the
time of the request of 30 September”.

The commissioner suggested that CAJ resubmit its freedom of information

The ICO has also said that “in the absence of a minister to approve or
amend the policy, it remains in draft form”.

Deputy director of the CAJ Daniel Holder said: "It is strange that the
department doesn't know when it started to draft the policy and the only
records it has are after the minister's statement and our request."

"An English-only language policy was never going to be compatible with
human rights obligations and the department should not have withheld the
documents, we welcome the decision by the Information commissioner that
they should now be released,” he said.

A spokesperson said: “The Department is considering the ICO ruling.”


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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