Profits on the Margins: Private Language Service Providers and Limited-English-Proficient Immigrants in Irish Courts



Due to an unprecedented growth in immigration to Ireland in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Ireland’s foreign-born population began to rise very quickly, and it stood at the last census in 2011 at 12 % of the total population. One immediate consequence of this was a sudden and huge rise in the number of defendants with no or limited fluency in English appearing daily in Irish courts on criminal charges, a situation where courts were ill-equipped to deal with, as prior to this most language issues that arose related to the rights of Irish (Gaelic) language speakers to use this, the first national language, in court. This new demand presented a serious challenge for the criminal justice system, as well as significant new market opportunities for interpreting service providers; ultimately, the Courts Service contracted a sole service provider in an effort to rationalise and manage the situation. However, despite the willingness of the justice system to “fork out” what was seen by many as huge sums on interpreting services, despite the obvious willingness of courts to provide interpreters where required and despite the Courts Service’s claims of satisfaction with the service provided, numerous, serious and ongoing problems have been identified vis-à-vis interpreting in Irish courts, raising questions about the ability of non- or limited-English-proficient (LEP) immigrants on the margins of the justice system to access justice. This chapter is concerned with the relationship between LEP defendants, courts and language service providers, and it sets out to examine how the grey area between the rights of these defendants to understand and participate in their defence and the obligations of courts to ensure a fair trial combines with a focus of the criminal justice system on the efficiency and management of interpreting services rather than their quality, to facilitate increased profit margins for private service providers.


Service Provider Justice System Criminal Justice System Legal Framework Criminal Case 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law Office of Michael G DowdNew YorkUSA

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