Thursday 14 May 2009

An tAontas Eorpach agus Gaelige

On Tuesday, it was reported in the Irish Times that the Irish government wasn't living up to the responsibilities of promoting the first official language, Irish. The financial crisis seems to have weakened the government's commitment to Irish, with the Irish Language Commissioner, Séan Ó Cuirreáin, and his office launching more official investigations to investigate complaints. I think that this is a very telling finding from an investigation:

"The practice of actively removing every síneadh fada from the names and addresses of newborn children being registered for child benefit payments was found to be in breach of a commitment in the Department of Social and Family Affairs’s statutory language scheme."

Actively removing fadas (á, é, í, ó, ú)? Why? Why bother?

If the Irish Government is failing to ensure that language rights are protected, then what is the condition of Irish at the European level? Irish has been a treaty language since Ireland's entry in 1973, which meant that all of the EC/EU's Treaties would be in Irish as well as English, German, French, etc. However, Irish has only become an official language of the EU since 2007 (before this legislation didn't have to be translated into Irish).

Despite this status, only legislation produced by co-decision is translated into Irish, as per Regulation 920/2005, though this will be reviewed after 4 years and then again every 5 years.

Earlier in the week I attended a jobs talk, and one of the talks was by university professor, who had done freelance work for the EU institutions as a lawyer-linguist, on job opportunities in the EU. Apparently they are crying out for people with English as their mother tongue (and the Irish are doing quite well out of this since people from Britain simply don't seem to want to work for the EU), but the situation is much more serious for Irish, despite the limitations on translation requirements. It seems that, so far, not one person has passed the Irish part of the concours. Naturally, legal Irish is very different from every day Irish, and those who are capable of being lawyer-linguists in Irish are based in the Dublin administration, which does a lot of the Council translation for Irish.

Which is a real pity, since, despite the complaints about translation costs, I do admire how an effort is made to respect the different languages.

Unfortunately, my Irish doesn't go much further than a few phrases (though the accent helps), so it doesn't look like I'll be able to take advantage of it.

The Irish EU law site is here.


  1. Hi there, very interesting article. Would you be abe to tell me the name of the university profesor who gave the talk? Regards.

  2. Sorry, I've forgotten it - she doesn't work at my university; she was a guest speaker.

    I'll try to find out, but it was a while ago now.

  3. That would be great if you could. Much appreciated, Regards,