‘European Parliament must end second-class status of Irish language’

Fianna Fáil MEP candidate, Thomas Byrne, wants end to ‘discrimination’ against Irish in EU

Thomas Byrne – end ‘second class status’ of Irish language in EU

Thomas Byrne – end ‘second class status’ of Irish language in EU


Fianna Fáil’s MEP candidate in Midlands North West, Thomas Byrne, has said that the European Parliament needs to end “the second class status of Irish”.

Mr Byrne said: “Many people believe that Irish was accorded full recognition as one of the 24 official and working official languages of the EU back in 2007. However, that formal recognition was only on paper. Nothing changed in practice because of a legal loophole that allowed the parliament to defer full recognition until 2007 and for another five years until 31st December 2016. This derogation – as it is called – means that not all EU institutions are obliged to translate laws or documents into Irish.

“This is an issue of jobs and rights. Irish-language organisations have estimated that more than 180 jobs could be created for translators and interpreters if this discrimination against Irish was ended. Unfortunately, it seems to be part of a pattern of disregard for the rights of minority language speakers by the European Parliament. The Parliament must spend the money needed to employ more staff proficient in Irish and the European Union’s other minority languages so as to recognise the rights of people who speak them.”

Mr Byrne said that derogation against Maltese was lifted after three years and that the EU gave provisional contracts to Maltese speakers to help them gain the required qualifications for appointment. He believed that the same should be done for Irish speakers and that recruitment competitions for long term and provisional contracts should be held this year, next year and in 2016.

He was worried that if nothing was done “the derogation discriminating against Irish is due to be renewed for another five years in 2016”. He wanted the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamonn Gilmore, “to ensure that the derogation will be scrapped and that Irish is given full, practical recognition by 2016. This would be an appropriate way to honour the centenary of the 1916 Proclamation which referenced a European dimension”.