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Analysis/Comment Last Updated: Dec 19th, 2007 - 13:17:15

EU to hire 30 Irish translators at cost of €3.5 million
By Michael Hennigan
Jun 13, 2005, 19:33

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The European Union is to recognise the Irish language as an official working language in the European Union.

EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Luxembourg today supported the proposal, and Irish will now become the 21st official language of the European Union.

Beautiful Gougane Barra in the Cork Gaeltacht, near the source of the River Lee (Photo: www.gouganebarra.com)

From January 1, 2007, all significant EU legislation will be translated into Irish. Plans to extend this to other legislation will be reviewed four years later. At ministerial level, provisions will be put in place for Irish to be spoken at council meetings.

Irish citizens applying for jobs with EU institutions, where two or more official EU languages are required, will be able to put down Irish from January 2007.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern said today that the up to 30 translators by the EU will be hired at an initial cost of €3.5m each year.

Ahern said it represented a particularly significant practical step for the language, and complemented the Government's wider policy of strong support for Irish in Ireland.

In 1997, an Irish Government Minister was appointed with direct responsibility for the language but she couldn't speak it. Bizarre but true!

Ireland became a member of the then European Community in 1973 and renewed the case for recognition of the language following the entry of ten new members in 2004 and the recognition of their languages.

However, in contrast with Israel's success with Hebrew, the policy of reviving the Irish language since independence, has been an abject failure due to lack of a serious commitment at both governmental and society level.

Decades of lip-service and payments of grants has left the language in a parlous state.

It is simply laughable that the Irish language would be used at EU ministerial level when most Irish politicians rarely speak the language apart from a few sentences if at all, at the start of a speech.

Irish language content is also rare in the main Irish daily newspapers and it has never been a requirement to use Irish when communicating with public officials.

So while this EU measure could be recognised as a belated recognition of an important part of Irish culture, it is sadly another example of what is wrong with the EU.

Mr. Ahern may not even be able to speak Irish at an EU meeting, never mind one in Dublin but he welcomes a measure that at least until Ireland becomes a net payer to the EU Budget, will be paid in full by German, Dutch and British taxpayers.

Cynicism comes cheap, so here are views other than mine - the words of an official report that was presented to the Irish Government in 2002:

The establishment of this Commission by the Government in the Spring of 2000 was a ray of hope to the people and friends of the Gaeltacht, people who for years have been concerned about the obvious decline and gradual extinction of the Gaeltacht. This Gaeltacht is all that remains of the large Irish-speaking community which was dominant in this country for hundreds of years, but has declined continuously in recent centuries.

While the first major action taken by the Free State Government on behalf of the Gaeltacht was the establishment of the first Gaeltacht Commission in 1925, the proposals made by the Commission were not acted upon however, nor were the appropriate resources made  available which would have been required in order to do so.

Seventy-Seven Years Later...

Taking into account the historical erosion of the Gaeltacht and the further decline in our own lifetime, the Commission is of the view that it will not be possible to maintain the Gaeltacht as an area in which Irish remains a community language unless a fundamental change occurs in the way Irish is treated and in the status of Irish in the rest of the country. Despite the progress made by individuals and language organisations it is not evident that any Government has the strategy or understanding to advance efforts on behalf of the language.

Although the Gaeltacht is the primary concern of this Commission, the issue of the Gaeltacht cannot be separated from the issue of the Irish language in the rest of the country. The Commission is not aware of any Government policy in which the Government’s view of the Irish language in contemporary society is articulated, nor of any vision that demonstrates that the Government has discussed the role of the Irish language in the life of the country. Neither does there exist any action plan containing measurable targets.

The Commission is not aware of any such Government policy or plan. The Commission is of the view that the State is out of step with emerging world views on the importance of linguistic and cultural diversity. It is now recognised that every spoken language is a valuable resource which provides us with a particular world view – a view which is shaped by the past, which is precious and which stimulates creativity.

The death of a language is recognised as an act of negligence which represents a world tragedy. If Irish is allowed to die, one of oldest languages in Europe and Ireland’s native language will be lost. The revitalization of Irish and all that goes with it is the sole responsibility of this country.

If its just the intention to keep the language as a national monument, for use on ceremonial occasions and with the ‘cúpla focal’ being spoken from time to time, it is unlikely that Gaeltacht people will have much interest in retaining the language. It is as part of a national policy for the revival of Irish as a national language that the Commission feels that progress can best be achieved. The Commission also believes that a unique opportunity now exists to undertake this work in view of the Good Friday Agreement.

© Copyright 2007 by Finfacts.com

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