First amendment ‘as Gaeilge’ proposed for EU legislation

Irish language has a newly enhanced status in the European Union since January 1st

The Ireland South Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly said it was an honour for him to propose the first amendment in Irish in the European Parliament. Photograph: Alan Betson

The first amendment to EU legislation to be submitted in Irish in the European Parliament has been proposed by Seán Kelly MEP.

The amendment was made to an International Trade Committee (INTA) opinion on a Foreign Affairs (AFET) report on the defence of multilateralism.

It is the first time in the history of Ireland's membership of the European Union that an amendment has been proposed in Irish, and that the newly enhanced status of the language has been used to amend legislation before the Parliament.

Before full parity was achieved with the EU’s 23 official languages at the beginning of this year the use of Irish was limited in the Parliament. However, following the end of a derogation that commenced in 2007, MEPs now have the right to speak Irish in committees and they can also use Irish while contributing to legislation before the Parliament.


The Ireland South Fine Gael MEP, who has spoken Irish regularly during plenary sessions of the European Parliament since his election to Brussels in 2009, said it was an honour for him to propose the first amendment in Irish in the European Parliament.

“Ba mhór an onóir dom an chéad leasú as Gaeilge a mholadh i bParliamint na hEorpa. Is ócáid stairiúil é seo ó thaobh na Gaeilge de,” he said.

Conradh na Gaeilge president, Dr Niall Comer, welcomed the development, saying: "Conradh na Gaeilge applauds Seán Kelly, MEP, for using the new status of the Irish language in the European Union and for providing a practical example of this status."

He said it “shows clearly” the success of a campaign organised by the Irish language community to achieve full recognition for Irish in the EU.

“Furthermore, it clearly shows that Irish has now taken its rightful place in the European Union, with the same status as all other official languages of the European Union.”

When Ireland joined the EU in 1973 the government did not ask for parity for Irish but only to have the treaties translated into Irish and for Irish citizens to have the right to communicate with the EU institutions in Irish.

The upgrade in the status of Irish, which was described by President Michael D. Higgins as a "significant achievement" and an "important recognition" of Ireland's linguistic identity, is expected to result in new career opportunities for Irish graduates wishing to work in the European Union.

From January 1st, 2022, all legislation enacted onwards has to be translated into Irish and the number of Irish language staff working in the European institutions is expected to increase in the first months of this year to around 200.

A number of measures were taken during the derogation to boost Irish language capacity and to increase the availability of documents and language resources in the language.

Since 2016, the EU institutions have held five annual conferences on Irish translation and interpretation and conferences promoting careers for lawyer-linguists in preparation for the end of the derogation.

The EU commission and the Irish Government have also organised an annual young translators competition for Irish-speaking secondary school pupils since 2017.

The overall cost to the EU budget of the 2 million pages that are translated each year is €349 million, which is the equivalent of 0.2 per cent of the EU’s overall budget.

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Iriseoir agus Eagarthóir Gaeilge An Irish Times. Éanna Ó Caollaí is The Irish Times' Irish Language Editor, editor of The Irish Times Student Hub, and Education Supplements editor.