Irish language arrives in European Parliament
On 1st January 2007, the Irish language became an official working language of the European Union for the first time. Provided that they give prior notice, Irish-speaking MEPs can now make their interventions in Irish during the Plenary Sessions of the European Parliament and the final texts of EU regulations, which are approved jointly by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union (from 1st January 2007 onwards), will be translated to Irish. After a period of five years, this situation will be reviewed and a decision will be taken on whether Irish language services can be further extended.
It is worth noting that since the Amsterdam Treaty entered into force, Irish-speakers have had the right to write to any of the EU institutions in Irish and to expect a response in their own language. All EU Treaties have also been translated into Irish. The new status, however, will ensure that the Irish language will take its place among the multilingual family of the European Union.
Among the EU institutions, it is in the European Parliament that this new status will have the strongest impact. The European Parliament has always worked towards the promotion of multilingualism and it is already the most multilingual parliament in the world.
Commenting on the impact of this new status at a reception held by the European Parliament Office in Ireland to commemorate this new status (see photo), Irish-speaking MEP Seán Ó Neachtain (FF/UEN) stated that
"In the European Parliament, it is about more than communication. The majority of the MEPs speak in their native languages and when they do that, they are making a statement of identity as well as a political statement."
He pointed out that, from a practical point of view, MEPs
"are more fluent when they are speaking their own language than when they are speaking a second or a third language."
The Irish-speaking MEP for Northern Ireland, Bairbre De Brún (SF/GUE-NGL) congratulated "everyone who took part in the STÁDAS campaign" - the campaign to ensure that the Irish language achieved the status of a working language within the EU. She went on to say that
"the first step has been taken now, but that there is work still ahead."
The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Éamon Ó Cuív TD, who was the keynote speaker at the reception thanked all those who had worked towards the new status and emphasised that
"the most important thing now is that people are encouraged to make use of the new rights which have been granted to them."