Irish spoken nine times at EU meetings

Wed, Jan 9, 2013, 00:00

Irish is recorded as having been spoken just nine times by Ministers at EU meetings over the past two years. In the European Parliament it is the least spoken of all 23 official languages.

Despite Irish being an official language in the EU since 2007 it is rarely spoken in any of the institutions.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan spoke Irish four times; Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar spoke it twice. Irish was spoken at a meeting attended by Mr Hogan and Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan. It was spoken at a meeting attended by junior ministers Dinny McGinley, Michael Ring and Ciarán Cannon. It was also spoken at a meeting attended by Mr Deenihan, Mr Ring, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn and Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald.


Neither Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore nor Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, who speak Irish fluently, have spoken it at EU ministerial meetings since they took office in February 2011. The nine times Irish was spoken was out of a total of 107 meetings attended by Irish Ministers with their EU counterparts, in the formal setting of the Council of Ministers, in Brussels and Luxembourg.

In the European Parliament Irish took up just 0.23 per cent of the speaking time by MEPs during plenary sessions up to May 2012. In 2011 it took up 0.32 per cent speaking time; in 2010 it was 0.35 per cent and in 2009 it was 0.19 per cent.

During the April plenary session of the parliament last year Ireland’s MEPs spoke Irish for just over four minutes, in March for two minutes, in February for under two minutes and in January for just over two minutes.

Julian de Spáinn, general secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge, said the amount of Irish being spoken at EU level was “very disappointing” . He said Ministers should speak Irish more to create more jobs for Irish speakers in the EU.

Ministers and MEPs must request to speak Irish ahead of meetings so that interpretation can be provided.

Only laws approved of by both the member states and the European Parliament are translated into Irish. This is because of an agreement to delay the full implementation of Irish until enough staff were available to provide it. Some webpages are also translated into Irish, though the European Parliament has been criticised for not having an Irish version to its website. The delay on the full implementation will be reviewed in 2015.

Four interpreters are employed full-time between the council, commission and parliament who can work in Irish, though they also interpret other languages as well. There are also freelance interpreters employed to work in Irish.

The commission employs 15 people in its Irish translation service, the council 10 people and the parliament five. The EU budget covers the cost of interpretation and translation of all official languages – costing €1.1 billion a year.