Cross-party support for new Plain Language Bill

January 31, 2019

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock has introduced a Plain Language Bill in the Dáil today, Thursday 31 January. Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has also introduced a Plain Language Bill in the Seanad. Both parties have been working with the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) to develop the Plain Language Bill.

The Plain Language Bill aims to ensure that all information for the public from Government and State bodies is written and presented in plain language.

NALA CEO Inez Bailey said: “We know that both citizens and governments benefit from clear information, written in plain language. Citizens are more likely to understand their rights and governments are more likely to make better use of their resources. We are delighted to have cross-party support today for the Plain Language Bill which if enacted will greatly benefit people in Ireland.”

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock said that while some government forms are already in accessible language “it’s clear we need a universal standard across all Departments”.

Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said that given one in six of the adult population has very low literacy levels “the State must work harder to make all public services accessible.”

All public information such as letters, forms and documents produced by Government and State agencies will be required to be written in plain language under the proposed new laws.

Michael Power (55), a former literacy student from Tipperary, said the proposed Plain Language Bill is a “brilliant opportunity” and that he hopes it goes further and “changes people’s lives”.

President of the Plain Language Association International (PLAIN), Margrethe Kvarenes, welcomed the Plain Language Bill introduced to the parliament of Ireland today, “On behalf of PLAIN, I commend NALA and the cross-party support for this important Bill. Plain language is a powerful tool. It makes governments more accessible and transparent and it is too important to just be the responsibility of organisations and practitioners.”

What is plain language?
Plain language or plain English as it is commonly known, is a style of writing and presenting information that helps you understand it the first time you read it.

Why is it important?
Plain language gives us information in a language we can understand and helps us to make informed choices. It is particularly important to provide information in plain language for people with literacy difficulties. According to the latest OECD international survey in 2012, one in six adults in Ireland has problems reading and writing. Plain language can also save organisations time and money as clearer information is shown to reduce mistakes and complaints.

What is a Bill?
A Bill is a draft of a new law that has yet to be passed by the Oireachtas.

What happens next?
The power to make new laws is the sole responsibility of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Dáil Éireann has the primary role in relation to legislation as it is directly elected by the people. All proposed new laws are introduced into the Oireachtas as Bills. When the Government wants to propose a law, the Cabinet approves the Bill and the relevant Minister brings it before the Oireachtas. Opposition parties or Members can also bring forward their own Bills, usually during Private Members’ time. If the Bill gets passed by the Oireachtas, it becomes an Act, which means that it becomes law.

About the National Adult Literacy Agency
The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) is a charity committed to making sure people with literacy and numeracy difficulties can fully take part in society. According to the latest OECD international survey in 2012, one in six adults in Ireland has problems reading and writing. Plain English benefits all of us but is particularly helpful for Irish people with low literacy levels.
NALA research has found that almost 95% of Irish adults are in favour of plain English. About half of them (48%) find official documents, including information from the Government difficult to understand. They also find jargon, terms and conditions, and financial information challenging.

About Plain Language Association International
Plain Language Association International (PLAIN) is the international association for plain language supporters and practitioners around the world. Our growing network includes members from over 30 countries working in clear communication in at least 15 languages.

For further information contact:

Helen Ryan, NALA Policy Officer, 01 412 7919

Clare McNally, NALA Communications Manager, 01 412 7909
Patrick Gleeson, NALA Communications Officer, 01 412 7916

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