Following the confirmation by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council that they could have to spend £1,800 or more on changing Irish language signage relating to the newly-renovated Enniskillen Workhouse, they have said the reason the mistranslation was chosen was for “grammar ease”.

At the Council’s Regeneration and Community meeting on February 14, councillors discussed the Irish translation for ‘workhouse’.

During the completion of the Public Realm Scheme, and the renovation of the workhouse, the Council sought advice from an independent Irish language translator as to the appropriate translation of the term, ‘workhouse’.

Both the term ‘Teach Oibre’ (House of the Work) and ‘Teach na mBocht’ (House of the Poor) were discussed with the translator, and it was decided to use the former.

There is one sign outside Enniskillen Workhouse, five information panels in the building, and two ‘fingerposts’ in Enniskillen town (erected as part of the Public Realm Scheme) which include the term ‘Workhouse’ as ‘Teach Oibre’.

At the February meeting, the Council’s Director of Community and Wellbeing, John Boyle, recommended that councillors approve the retention of the term ‘Teach Oibre’ for the workhouse.

However, Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh, CCLA, who is a Gaeilgeoir (a fluent Irish speaker), had a proposal passed which went against this recommendation, as the term used for workhouse among Irish speakers is ‘Teach na mBocht’.

Mr. Boyle had advised councillors of the cost of changing the signage, which would be approximately £1,800.

The Impartial Reporter asked follow-up questions around how the Council came to the decision of using ‘Teach Oibre’ – a translation Councillor O’Cofaigh described as “absolutely disgraceful”.

The Council was asked who the independent translator was, how much it cost for their services around the workhouse translation, the reasons ‘Teach Oibre’ was chosen, the consultation process with the Council’s own Irish Language Officer, and did the Council use independent translators for all Irish translations?

In response, a Council spokesperson said: “The Council procured Premier Irish Translation Services for this work. The Irish Language Officer was consulted; however, translation is a specialism, therefore external translation is often required.

“Both ‘Teach Oibre’ and ‘Teach na mBocht’ are correct, with ‘Teach Oibre’ chosen for grammar ease.”

Jim Ledwith, a representative of Sruth na hEirne, an Enniskillen-based Irish language organisation, said it was “incredulous” that this mistake emerged, and called it a “blotch” in the work of the workhouse renovation project.

“The fact that this translation was chosen against the background of all workhouses anywhere in Ireland, [which are] commonly known as ‘Teach na mBocht’, shows a lack of detailed knowledge.

“But at the same time, to take the good out of it, the councillors – particularly Donal O’Cofaigh – put down a marker on the sensitivities of any future research on the workhouses in Fermanagh and The Famine,” he added.