Language and the Law – Conference Programme

8.15 – 9 Registration
9 – 9.15 Welcome
Dr Mary Phelan, ATII Chair and CTTS Director
James MacGuill, Senior Counsel
9.15 – 9.35 Keynote
Barbara Rovan:
New challenges facing legal translators and interpreters in the EU
9.35 – 11 Panel 1: International Protection – Chair: Trish Van Bolderen
Wendy Lyon:
Interpreting in International Protection

European legislation governing the international protection process requires information to be given to asylum seekers in “a language which they may reasonably be supposed to understand” and the provision of an interpreter “who is able to ensure appropriate communication” between themselves and the person interviewing them. However, inadequate standards for translators and interpreters has long made this obligation more illusory than real in Ireland. Recent changes to the application process have made it even more difficult for non-English speaking asylum seekers to access their right to effective communication. This talk will look at the practical implications of these policies for many of the people seeking international protection in Ireland.

Dia Silverstein:
I Never Said That! : How Systemic Deficiencies in Interpreting and Translation Fail International Protection Applicants in Ireland

Interpreting and Translating in Ireland is not a regulated field. This presents unique difficulties for both International Protection (“IP”) applicants in the State and their legal representatives who help them through the process. As a solicitor working with a large caseload of IP applicants, Dia Silverstein has unexpectedly found herself in a unique position to understand, analyse, and critique the current state of interpreting and translating in the IP system.

Hassina Kiboua:
The role of interpreters in Ireland’s asylum settings.

Asylum applicants fleeing persecution and seeking hospitality do not usually speak the language of the host-country. They express themselves through an interpreter, who mediates between asylum applicants and the examining institutions. In this, interpreters find themselves dealing with a variety of contexts including, a wide cultural gap, power imbalance, and the tension between the applicant’s universal human right to seek hospitality and the host country’s right to self-determination along with the politics of exclusion exercised towards the outsider asylum applicant.
Building on the premise that interpreters and the role they play are vital for the asylum process to function and for asylum seekers to establish their claim and access due process, this workshop aims to share some of my PhD findings on the role of interpreters in Ireland’s asylum settings as understood by legal professionals, interpreters, and clients.

11 – 11.30 Break
11.30 – 1 Panel 2: Legal Translation – Chair: Penny Eades
John O’Shea and Juliette Scott:
Legal Translation – The Overlooked Hot Potato

After explaining their broad interpretation of ‘legal’ translation, the speakers will discuss how it affects individuals, businesses, and the economy. People’s finances, health and even their very lives can be at risk. Companies’ rights, assets and reputations can be seriously compromised. Even States can be impacted by the wide-ranging and far-reaching repercussions that translation can have.
The talk will be divided into two parts: the first looking at what can and does go wrong, and the second examining reasons and potential mitigation strategies.
In presenting their arguments the speakers will draw from over a decade of research into this specific area; a number of theoretical frameworks that they have developed; and their extensive dataset of court cases.

Annette Schiller:
ATII Certified Legal Translator status

In the absence of regulation or the state-accreditation of translators in Ireland, the ATII (formerly ITIA) introduced the professional qualification “Certified Legal Translator” almost 20 years ago. Annette will outline the general profile of ATII Certified Legal Translators and will provide some examples of best practice when working with these professionals.

Alice Chambers:
Language, Law and the Media: the perspective of the newsroom

How does a story go from an anecdote to the pages of a newspaper? We all consume media daily but might be less familiar with how a journalist looks for information, cultivates sources, verifies what she’s been told and writes her final articles.
Following her investigative series on interpretation problems for asylum seekers at the International Protection Office and the International Protection Appeals Tribunal, Alice Chambers will explain how the series came about and discuss the reporting and writing process. The presentation will look at this specific investigation with a view to helping interpreters, lawyers or academics work with journalists in the future.

1 – 2 Lunch
2 – 3.30 Panel 3: Interpreting in Garda (Police) Stations – Chair: John O’Shea
Yvonne Daly:
Access to Interpretation in Investigative Interviews: Legal Rights and Practical Realities

The right to an interpreter in criminal proceedings has been recognised in International, European and Irish law. It is also listed as one of the 13 legal safeguards necessary within investigative interviews under the so-called “Mendez Principles on Effective Interviewing for Investigations and Information Gathering”. However, the recognition of rights at a high level does not always translate into effective protections in the reality of practice and procedure. This paper will examine the extent to which the right to interpretation is realised in Ireland, specifically within police interviews with suspects. The protections in law will initially be explored before sharing findings from a qualitative study conducted by Prof Yvonne Daly and the late Dr Vicky Conway with 44 criminal defence solicitors in Ireland, with experience of attending police interviews. The findings show that solicitors have concerns about the process of securing interpreters, the quality of the work, their independence, their understanding of their role, the overall impact on the process and the urgent need for training.

Sarah Jane Aberásturi:
Public service interpreting: Principles and Practice

Using the example of a case that came before the Irish courts in 2022, Sarah Jane will discuss the principles governing professional interpreting in police interviews and other official settings. She will give specific examples of what can happen when these principles are not applied, and briefly consider the potential harm to suspects, victims and the state.

James MacGuill:
Dúirt bean liom – tips and traps for defence solicitors

This paper will address the following points:

  • Black letter law Measure A, DIRECTIVE 2010/64/EU.
  • Irish Statutory Instruments SIs 564 & 565/2013 (Garda Stations and Courts)
  • Consideration of Case Law
  • Court decision of the Court of Appeal in DPP v HM & BO 2021 IECA 315 & Irish Jurist 2022
  • Garda Station decision of the High Court in DS
  • EU Caselaw C-564/19
  • Practical steps to identify when translation has gone wrong
  • Obligation to have the recording whether Garda Station or Court reviewed by a competent interpreter
  • Working with EULITA
  • Payment issues
3.30 – 3.45 Break
3.45 – 5.15 Panel 4: Court Interpreting – Chair: Miriam Watchorn
Réidín Murphy:
Recent developments in Ireland’s approach to child protection interpreting, from the Covid-19 pandemic until 2024

Whereas the right to an interpreter in criminal cases has a documented legal basis, the practical application of that right has been seen to be varied and nuanced. In the Family Justice System, litigants will in practice be provided with an interpreter although the right itself must be found within the concept of natural justice. In both domains, the problems surrounding interpreter provision are rife and the issues are complex. As a vulnerable category of litigants, even where English is spoken fluently, language barriers amongst respondent parents in child protection proceedings present as one of several barriers to participation in and understanding of legal proceedings in which the serious questions of families’ futures and children’s outcomes are in the balance. The research I will present on today examines this question of access to justice through cross-cultural communication in childcare legal proceedings as evaluated through ‘in person’ participation in District Court daily proceedings.

Mary Phelan and Liese Katschinka:
‘Serious, and potentially far reaching, inaccuracies in the interpretation process’

The decision of the Court of Appeal in DPP v HM & BO 2021 IECA 315 is the first time in Ireland that an appeal has been allowed on the grounds of inadequate interpreting at trial. With the help of Liese Katschinka (former President of EULITA) and Professor Christiane Driesen, Mary Phelan transcribed and translated the digital audio recording of 100 minutes of French-English-French interpreting during examination in chief and cross-examination of a defendant and wrote a report that was submitted by James MacGuill to the Court of Appeal. This paper will focus on the reasons for the Court of Appeal’s decision.

Lorraine Leeson:
You Have the Right to Remain Signing: Sign Language Translation and Interpreting in Legal Contexts in Ireland

This paper reflects on the impact of the Irish Sign Language Act (2017) on sign language translation and interpretation in the State, with particular reference to legal contexts, including consideration of the impact of the establishment of the Register of Irish Sign Language Interpreters, which public bodies must draw upon in the provision of their services. In addition, since 2020, we have seen a cohort of deaf interpreters trained, some of whom work in legal contexts alongside hearing colleagues, the qualification of Ireland’s first deaf barrister, the inclusion of deaf people as jurors, and increased awareness of and engagement with the Deaf community by An Garda Síochána. Here, we reflect on where we are, some of the challenges that must be addressed, and implications for the administration of justice in the state when that is delivered via translation and interpretation.

5.15 – 5.30 Where do we go from here



  • €160 Early Bird (extended until 10th May) – €210 Standard
  • ATII members / members of FIT associations: €55 Early Bird (extended until 10th May) – €85 Standard
  • ATII student members: €15

To register: Please go to