Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Jul 15 19:24:55 UTC 2004

Irish Government to work for full EU official status for Irish

Brussel / Bruxelles 7/15/2004 , by Davyth Hicks

Eamon O Cuiv TD, Irish Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs
announced yesterday, after a Cabinet meeting, that the Government are to
initiate a process of discussions with the other EU Member States and the
EU Commission with a view to seeking official and working language status
for the Irish language in the EU under EEC Regulation 1/1958.

The Regulation is the legal instrument that governs the EU Institutions'
official and working language regime. According to the Minister's press
release "The focus in these discussions will be on securing agreement on
the practical modalities in relation to this objective".

Language activists have expressed their delight at the move. Dr Padraig
Laighin, who led the Stadas campaign for full working status, told the
Irish Times that "It is a matter of national self-esteem that one of
Europe's most ancient languages should be recognised in this way. Irish is
central to our definition of what Europe is and has been for the last
2,000 years. The move will also mean that Irish will be the first Celtic
language to have full EU official status.

In what is seen as something of a personal victory, Mr  O Cuiv said that
there was "unanimous" support among his colleagues for the move. "This
will put Irish on a par with Finnish, Swedish, Danish and Maltese, if it
is successful, and we are confident that it will be," he said.

The new status will require EU laws and official documents to be issued in
Irish, although the main languages used in the EU institutions will still
be English, French and German. It will mean that MEPs will have direct
translation in all committee and plenary meetings in the European
Parliament, as well as jobs for translators and interpreters, but Mr  Cuiv
said that the decision was "more than about creating jobs".

MEP Sen  Neachtain welcomed the move describing it as an imperative.

Throughout the Irish EU Presidency the status issue was avoided despite
constant pressure from a majority of Irish MPs and language campaigners.
The Irish Government further raised the rancour of Catalans, Basque and
Galicians by halting any progress in giving Treaty status to their

Speaking exclusively to Eurolang Dr Padraig  Laighin said: This is a
momentous event in the history of the Irish language and in the life of
the nation. We wholeheartedly congratulate the Irish Government on their
decision, and especially Minister Eamon  Cuiv whose measured preparations
made the decision possible.

More people will speak and use Irish in the future as a result of this
decision, and the whole raison d'etre for learning the language in school,
as a first or second language, has been transformed. No longer will Irish
speakers be second-class citizens in their own country. There are no
guarantees for the future of any language such as Irish, which is under
threat, but this decision restores hope and strengthens self-esteem".

Dr  Laighin concluded that This decision was made possible by the
individual acts of thousands of people, at home and abroad. This is a
victory for us all  for those who campaigned in various ways, for
politicians who supported, for the Government which acted, and for those
who in the future will gain benefits from a redefinition of Europes
linguistic diversity and rich heritage.

Support also came from Catalonia. Catalan expert, Miquel Strubell, told
Eurolang that As a language community, and given that such a measure would
bring Irish-speaking citizens closer to the European institutions and make
them feel accepted and represented by them, as well as giving a boost to
the professionals who work with Irish, we cannot but congratulate the
Irish government for the initiative, ask the Spanish government to give it
its support when the request reaches the European Council - the body
competent for taking the decision ... and then - and only then - remind
everyone that Catalan society, including two of its Parliaments, has
requested the same status for Catalan". (Eurolang)

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