Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (234, 235)

Finian McGrath

Question:

351 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will ensure Irish is included in the official languages list in the EU as a priority. [1170/04]

View answer

Seán Haughey

Question:

353 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will ensure Irish is included as an official EU language; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1163/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 351 and 353 together.

The Irish language has the status of a "Treaty language" in the European Union. This derives from the fact that the treaties are in Irish and that Irish is listed as one of the languages in which the text is authentic. Each successive treaty is published in Irish as well as in the eleven other languages, with the texts in Irish being equally authentic and having equal status with those in all other languages. The draft constitutional treaty under consideration at the Intergovernmental Conference would fully maintain this position.

Irish is not one of the official and working languages of the institutions of the Union as provided for in Article 1 of Regulation 1/1958. However, the Government continues to monitor developments with a view to availing of any appropriate opportunity which may arise to enhance the status of Irish in relation to the EU. For instance, under revised staff regulations, which are due to be agreed shortly, and as a result of an initiative by Ireland, a new requirement for officials to demonstrate before their first promotion the ability to work in a third language extends not only to official and working languages but also to Irish. In this regard, Irish is the only language that is not an official and working language which will be taken into account.

The Government remains fully willing to build on the advances made and to take further practical steps as appropriate. To this end, there are ongoing discussions between my Department and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. I very much hope these discussions will result in the identification of additional opportunities to enhance the status of Irish in the EU.