‘No excuse’ for absence of fada on public transport cards

A State agency has come under attack from celebrities, language activists, and a Government minister for its refusal to properly spell Irish names on public transport passes.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) is blaming “technical limitations” for not including the fada on names of commuters using Leap cards.

Liam Ó Maonlaí, of The Hothouse Flowers, said “there is no real excuse for it”.

Speaking from Germany where he is on tour, the musician said “a lot of people in Ireland view this language as something to be ashamed of. It is a pity.

“Pretty much all printing technology has the capacity to print fadas — there is no excuse,” he said.

Liam Ó Maonlaí

Documents released under Freedom of Information show Transport Minister Shane Ross recently complained to the NTA, which is answerable to him, that the son of one of his constituents wanted his name spelt properly on his Leap card.

Anne Graham, NTA chief executive, replied to Mr Ross to say it was not possible.

“We regret that the Leap Card system cannot currently print characters such as fada signs or accents due to a technical limitation,” she said in a letter.

She added that it was “something we would hope to address at a suitable opportunity in the future”.

While State agencies are obliged to provide services in Irish, there is no specific provision in legislation on the use of the síneadh fada in a person’s name.

There can be a statutory obligation as part of a language scheme if agreed between an agency and the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

While the NTA agreed such a scheme in 2016, it only committed to using the fada on its word processing systems.

Broadcaster Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh said it was “rubbish” to blame technology for not using the accents on the public transport cards.

Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh

“I don’t accept that. In this day and age, you can do everything technically. I have three computers and they all take the fada.”

Ms Ní Chofaigh said the problem is endemic among private sector businesses but that it is simply unacceptable from the public service.

“I have had said to me: ‘You’re one of them? Are you going to make me spell the fadas as well?’ It is my name. My name is my name.

Seán Kyne, minister of state for the Irish language, said he was “surprised” at the NTA and noted the obligation on all State organisations to provide services in both Irish and English.

“The assertion that the inclusion of fadas on Irish names is not possible because of technical difficulties does not, in my view, make sense.”

Mr Kyne said he will be expecting the State agency to “rectify such ‘technical difficulties’ as a priority”.

Irish language commissioner Rónán Ó Domhnaill said the fada in a person’s name is an “integral part of that name”.

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