6th Dec 2023

Irish to become official EU language

Irish is to become the 21st official language of the EU following an agreement by European foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday (13 June).

From January 2007, all key legislation in the bloc will be translated into Irish with ways of extending this to other legislation to be looked at in 2011.

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  • It's official - after a "long and torturous" campaign (Photo: Irish Presidency)

Welcoming the decision, Irish foreign minister Dermot Ahern told Irish RTE radio that it was a "very long and torturous campaign" to get Ireland's first official language recognised at EU level.

Irish is used far less on a daily basis than English but there are certain Gaeltacht areas in the country where it is spoken by more than 80 percent of people.

Currently, Irish has treaty status meaning that only official EU treaties have the right to be translated into the language; Irish speakers may also write to the EU institutions in their language and have the right of reply in the same language.

Under the new status, Irish may also be spoken at council meetings and will be officially recognised for recruiting to EU institutions which generally require your native language plus one other EU language to be spoken.

According to Mr Ahern, the new status will create around 30 jobs for translators and interpreters and will cost the EU around €3.5 million a year.

The foreign minister admitted that there were "quite a lot of countries, particularly Spain, who had issues in relation to this".

Spain had feared it would open up calls from its regions for Basque and Catalan to be recognised as official languages as well. Ireland had always countered that Irish is the first official language of the island in contrast to the Basque language in Spain, for example.

Other ministers had fears "that this might open up all sorts of other issues", Mr Ahern said to RTE.

Dublin's bid for a change in status started in earnest around the time of its presidency of the EU in the first half of last year.

It made much of the goodwill generated by its success in getting a deal on the EU constitution to push this issue.

"It's a real psychological boost for the Irish language" said Mr Ahern adding that it confirms "the fact that we have multiple identities in the EU".

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