Irish gains full official and working status in the EU

Move will create new career opportunities for graduates interested in working in the Irish language

The Irish language achieved full parity with the European Union’s 23 official languages from midnight following the end of a derogation that has been in place since 2007.

As of January 1st, 2022, all legislation enacted onwards will be translated into Irish. The move is expected to result in new career opportunities for graduates interested in working with the Irish language, and the number of Irish language staff working in the European institutions will soon increase from 170 to around 200.

Welcoming the end of the derogation, Minister for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne, said: "I am immensely proud that this derogation is ending and Irish is now a full, official EU language. This reflects the tireless work that has gone into building up the capability of the EU Institutions to operate through Irish - and it is fitting that it is happening this year, a year when we will also mark the historic 50 year anniversary since Ireland signed the Treaty of Accession to the European Communities.

Minister of State for the Gaeltacht and Sport Jack Chambers also welcomed the move. "The end of the derogation of the status of the Irish language in the European Union is a crucial step in the development and future of the language.

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“Irish is now on a par with other official and working EU languages and this will strengthen the relationship between citizens and European administrative systems.

“Together with the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021 signed by the President of Ireland last week, the role of the Irish language in national and European systems of administration has now been significantly strengthened,” he said.

In 2004, following a lengthy public campaign led by language rights group Stádas and cross-party support for the move, the Irish government requested that Irish would be included as an official EU language.

It became an official working language in the EU in January 2007, but a shortage of qualified translation staff and limited technological resources resulted in the number of documents to be translated into Irish being restricted through a derogation, or weakening of position, that was sought by the Irish government.

In 2015 the government asked the EC to gradually reduce the scope of the derogation and the volume of documents made available in Irish tripled from January 2015 to April 2021.

Advanced language resources were developed in the intervening period including a new English-Irish neural machine translation engine that was built in 2018 as part of the commission's eTranslation system. Content in the European Commission's terminology base, IATE, and in the EU's translation memory bank, Euramis (European advanced multilingual information system), has also been developed.

A number of initiatives have also been taken in Ireland, including at university-level, to ensure the demand for qualified personnel can be met. NUI Galway is providing support material in Irish as it relates to the European Union's EPSO recruitment tests.

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Éanna Ó Caollaí is an Irish Times journalist and editor of the Irish Times Student Hub