Double Dutch for Irish as Euro election letters arrive

Amsterdam authorities sign off as Gaeilge

More than 1,000 bemused Irish residents of Amsterdam have received letters impeccably written in Irish – asking them if they would like to vote in the European elections in May.

On headed paper of the Amsterdam City Council, the letters begin “A dhuine uasail”, before going on to explain that as European citizens the recipients are entitled to vote in the Netherlands for Dutch MEPs.

On the other hand, "Má theastaíonn uait votáil i do thír dhúchais le haghaidh Pharlaimint na hEorpa, ní­ gá duit rud ar bith a dhéanamh ach ahmain má tá tú cláraithe cheana féin san Isiltír", the Irish expats are advised . . . In other words, if they wish to vote in their own countries they need do nothing at all, unless they are already registered to vote in the Netherlands.

Dutch authorities
With perfect etiquette, the Amsterdam authorities sign off as Gaeilge with, "Le dea-mhein, Bárdas na Cathrach" – "With best wishes, the city corporation."Noel McCullagh, an Amsterdam resident who has lived and studied in the Netherlands for the past 15 years, says he was fascinated to receive one of the letters – not least because of the perfect fluency of the Irish.

“I know that Amsterdam is a city of more than 180 different nationalities and that the authorities try to communicate with all of them – but even so, as a linguist I was certainly impressed”, he said. City hall spokeswoman Jutta Ravelli told The Irish Times the letters “prompted quite a few calls from Irish people”.


“Most were delighted they had been translated into Irish, but they also wanted to know if we had an English version – because they couldn’t understand a word of them.”

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court