Government to seek official EU status for Irish language

Denis Staunton in Brussels
Irish Times
24 Nov 2004

The Government will formally request that Irish be made an
official, working language of the European Union at a meeting of EU
ambassadors in Brussels today but will not ask that all EU documents
should be translated into Irish, The Irish Times has learned.

Officials confirmed that Ireland's Permanent Representative to the
EU, Ms Ann Andersen, will request a change in the status of the
language today but declined to give details of the proposal.

The Government will request an amendment of Council Regulation
1/1958, which governs the languages used in the European
institutions, to give Irish equal status to the 20 current official
languages of the EU. The Government will, however, ask for a
derogation similar to that negotiated for Maltese, which will mean
that not all official documents will be translated into Irish.

All regulations adopted jointly by the Council of Ministers and the
European Parliament would be translated into Irish but the EU would
not be obliged to translate other documents, including judgments from
the European Court of Justice, into the language.

Malta has agreed to adopt this limited regime for a transitional
period of three years, after which all EU documents would have to be
translated into Maltese unless a new derogation is agreed.

The Maltese derogation, which was agreed under Ireland's EU
presidency, was motivated by a shortage of Maltese interpreters and

Most member-states are sympathetic to the Irish proposal but Spain
wants any amendment to embrace a change in the status of Catalan,
Basque and two other languages used in that country. Any change in
the language regulation requires the support of all 25 EU member-

The Fianna Fáil MEP, Mr Sean Ó Neachtain, last night welcomed the
Government's move and expressed confidence that EU foreign ministers
will approve the change.

"This is the moment of truth. The application is being made formally
and I welcome it wholeheartedly," he said.

At present, Irish enjoys the status of a "treaty language", which
means that all EU treaties are translated into and are valid in Irish
and citizens can write to the EU institutions in Irish and receive a
reply in the same language.

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