Irish Republican News · July 16, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Dublin accepts need for EU status for Irish

The 26-County government has finally yielded to demands that it seek recognition of Irish as an official working language of the European Union.

The minister for Gaeltacht (Irish) affairs, Eamon O Cuiv, said in a statement the government would “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.

Pressure to gain recognition for Gaelic mounted earlier this year when Ireland held the EU’s rotating six-monthly presidency, during which time 10 mainly east European countries joined the bloc.

One of the main Gaelic language lobby groups, Stadas (Status), argued that it was an anomaly to have the languages of entrant countries such as Malta and Latvia recognised while Irish, the tongue of a long-standing EU member, had still to get official status.

Irish language enthusiasts, who had picketed EU meetings, marched on parliament and circulated a petition, said Dublin had hedged its bets on the issue until yesterday’s decision.

Dr Padraig O Laighin, spokesman for the ‘Stadas’ campaign, said that he was delighted. “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,” he said.

A 2002 census showed about 1.4 million of Ireland’s four million people had “an ability” to speak Irish and over a quarter of those were reported as speaking it on a daily basis.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP welcomed the decision and congratulated the Stadas campaign for its efforts.

“Thirty years ago the Government had the opportunity to seek official status for the Irish language, when the state first joined the Union. This decision is late in coming, but very welcome nonetheless,” he said.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News