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Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Irish as EU Language.

Tuesday, 8 October 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 469 No. 5

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 38. Miss de Valera Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera  asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  the steps, if any, being taken to promote the Irish language during the Irish Presidency of the EU; if he plans to pursue the designation of Irish as a full working language of the EU during the Irish Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17787/96]

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins Mar fhreagra ar Cheisteanna Uimh. 1 agus 4 ar 14 Márta 1996, chuir mé in iúl don Teach go nglacfainn le gach deis oiriúnach chun [1457] úsáid na Gaeilge a chur chun cinn le linn cruinnithe, comhdhálacha agus ócáidí eile a bhainfidh le hUachtaránacht na hÉireann ar an Aontas Eorpach.

Tá áthas orm go ndearna mé amhlaidh le linn do chruinniú a bheith ar siúl i nGaillimh le déanaí d' Airí an Aontais Eorpaigh a bhfuil freagracht orthu i ndáil le Cultúr agus Cúrsaí Closamhairc. Cuireadh áiseanna teangaireachta d'aistriúchán comhuaineach Gaeilge ar fáil i rith an chruinnithe sin — áiseanna a bhí ar chomhchéim leo sin a bhí á gcur ar fáil do theangacha eile ar nós na Fraincise, na Gearmáinise agus mar sin de. Ba í seo an chéad uair, go bhfios dom, gur cuireadh áiseanna d'aistriúchán comhuaineach Gaeilge ar fáil ag cruinniú Airí de chuid an Aontais Eorpaigh. Is ar éigin is gá dom a rá gur ghlac mé féin agus an tAire Stáit ag mo Roinnse, Donal Carey Uasal, T.D., go leor deiseanna chun an Ghaeilge a úsáid i rith an chruinnithe i nGaillimh. Bhí áit fheiceálach ag an nGaeilge freisin sna doiciméid, suaitheantais agus araile a bhí in úsáid ag an gcruinniú. Ní miste a rá gur oifigigh de chuid mo Roinne-se atá lonnaithe sna Forbacha, Gaillimh — áit a bhfúil an Ghaeilge mar ghnáth-theanga oibre — a rinne formhór na hoibre ullmhúcháin i ndáil na heagrú an chruinnithe.

Chomh maith leis sin, beidh cruinniú faoi phleanáil teanga i gcomhthéacs an Aontais Eorpaigh, atá á eagrú ag Bord na Gaeilge i gcomhairle le mo Roinnse, ar siúl sa Spidéal ag tús mhí na Samhna agus tuigim go mbeidh áiseanna d'aistriúchán comhuaineach Gaeilge in úsáid ansin freisin.

Is cúis áthais dom gur foilsíodh eagrán speisialta i bhfoirm iomlán dhátheangach de FÍS, nuachtlitir mo Roinne-se, le déanaí le fócas ar leith ar chúrsaí an Aontais Eorpaigh.

Maidir le stádas na Gaeilge san Aontas Eorpach, chuir mé in iúl don Teach mar fhreagra ar Cheist Uimh. 107 ar 30 Aibreán 1996 agus mar fhreagra ar Cheisteanna Uimh. 22, 24, 80 agus 93 ar 12 Meitheamh 1996 gur faoi réir na tagairte do chóras na dteangacha san [1458] Aontas Eorpach i mír 3.209 den Pháipéar Bán um Bheartas Eachtrach a ghlacfar le deis oiriúnach chun stádas na Gaeilge a chur chun cinn san Aontas Eorpach.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera I have raised this matter in the Dáil on a number of occasions and the Minister has pointed out certain difficulties in this regard. I raised it well in advance of the Irish Presidency because I had hoped the Government would issue a mission statement as to what it proposed to do to pursue the designation of Irish as a full working language of the EU. Does the Minister accept that if the Irish language was recognised in this way it would create a number of jobs? I understand 500 jobs in translation work alone could be created. It would also solve the problem for many Irish people who are seeking EU positions which require two languages because at this stage they cannot count their national language as one of them. With the onset of EU enlargement when other languages will be coming onstream and will be accepted as full working languages, the Minister should ensure that the Irish language is incorporated as an official working language.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins Every opportunity will be taken to make that point, particularly in the context of the Intergovernmental Conference where it is more strictly relevant than the Irish Presidency which runs in parallel with the Intergovernmental Conference process. As I said in relation to the arrangements for the conduct of our Presidency, this was the first time that Irish was used in simultaneous translation on a parallel with German, French and the other languages of the Union. All documentation was prepared in Irish and it was used at the meetings. We are trying to run the Presidency in that manner.

In relation to the Intergovernmental Conference, particularly the issue of enlargement, I have said that every opportunity will be taken to consider the issue of the use of the language. What Deputy de Valera said is factually [1459] true in that if Irish had a working language status it would have employment consequences, but it must be borne in mind that whatever we do now we are trying to make up for a lost opportunity at the time of accession. If the past was let go at that time we are trying to make up for that now. I am not saying that just to make a point, but that is the circumstance in which we find ourselves.

We will certainly use what opportunities we can. I agree that perhaps the opening may come in considerations of enlargement.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera It is right that we should promote the Irish language. I admire the way the Minister has done so, especially in the meetings he outlined in his reply. However, official acknowledgement of the language is quite different and I know the difficulties that may arise.

The Minister has pointed out that enlargement may help in pursuing the goal of accepting the Irish language as an official language.

Does he agree there is scope for flexibility in this area? The status of Irish should be ensured; final versions of EU documents and legal documentation should be available in Irish and it should be recognised as a language which citizens can use in job applications for EU promotions. Irish should be included in all EU measures which affect language practice and research. Does the Minister agree this would be a start? If so, how does he intend to pursue those aspects?

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins There have been talks between officials of my Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs on many of the matters Deputy de Valera mentioned. We have examined ways in which we might advance in relation to text and all of these other matters. We have made proposals on where we can make progress in this area, and many of them have been agreed.


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