Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Questions (22, 23)

Trevor Sargent

Question:

163 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Sargent den Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha cén dul chun cinn atá déanta aige agus ag an Rialtas sa chomhphlé le ballstáit eile an AE chun stádas oifigiúil a bhaint amach don Ghaeilge agus ar chuir an Rialtas litir chuig an gCoimisiún fós ag lorg an stádais seo agus an gceapann an tAire go ndéanfar socruithe san idirphlé leis na ballstáit eile agus leis an gCoimisiún le gur féidir le Comhairle na nAirí an Ghaeilge a thabhairt isteach faoi Rialachán 1 (1958) ag an gcruinniú a bhéas acu i Mí na Nollag 2004. [23055/04]

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Brian O'Shea

Question:

181 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the response which has been received from the European Commission in respect of the status of the Irish language within the EU; if bilateral discussions have taken place in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22756/04]

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Oral answers (15 contributions) (Question to Minister for Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 and 181 together.

The Government decided on 14 July to initiate a process of discussions with the other EU member states and EU institutions with a view to seeking official and working status for the Irish language in the EU under Regulation 1 of 1958. The regulation is the legal instrument that governs the official and working language regime of the EU institutions. As a first step, we have undertaken initial bilateral discussions in Brussels with representatives of other member states and EU institutions. These discussions are ongoing and once they have progressed sufficiently to clarify the issues arising, as well as practical options in relation to achieving its objective, the Government will decide how it can most effectively proceed further, including the tabling of a formal proposal, with this matter.

The outcome and length of negotiations on this matter cannot be predicted with certainty. Unanimity among the 25 member states is required for amendment to Regulation 1 of 1958 which governs the language regime of the Union. The Government is determined to try to make early progress in this matter.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire as an bhfreagra. Tá an Rialtas ag plé na ceiste seo le fada ach tá gá le freagraí daingneacha, "sea" nó "ní hea". Níor chuala mé na freagraí a raibh mé ar a lorg go fóill. Ar scríobh an Rialtas litir go foirmiúil chuig an Coimisiúin agus Comhairle na nAirí ag déanamh an iarratais seo? An féidir í a feiceáil? An mbeidh rún ar an gclár ag an chruinniú de Chomhairle na nAirí atá beartaithe do dheireadh na bliana an Ghaeilge a chur ar an liosta faoi airteagal 1 do rialachán 1, 1958? Tá gá le freagra díreach dó sin. An bhfuil aon dhul chun cinn déanta faoi aonad chomhordaithe aistriúcháin a bhunadh leis an chuid denacquis communitaire nach bhfuil aistrithe go Gaeilge cheanna a aistriú? Tá go leor oibre ansin agus tá a lán ann a bheadh sásta á déanamh.

It is not a question of "yes" or "no". The contacts that have been made were made at diplomatic level with all the countries involved. While some progress has been made, there is a difficulty in respect of some countries with regional languages which may want to obtain recognition in that regard. As stated earlier, unanimity is the issue.

A sensitive sounding out of the positions of other countries is taking place at present. The discussions are at a preliminary stage but we would like to believe we would be able to progress a proposal on this matter at a meeting in the not too distant future. This is a particularly sensitive issue. While the Irish language has treaty status and the Amsterdam treaty confirmed this, it is the only language in which treaties may be published yet it is not an official language. The Government decided to try to address this matter and that is why the initial contacts have taken place at diplomatic level. I am not in a position to say that letters are in place. We leave the matter to diplomatic representatives acting on behalf of the State.

An bhfuil an tAire sásta sprioc-dáta a chur leis na comhráití seo a chríochnú? Sna cainteanna go dtí seo, an bhfuil dul chun cinn déanta? Cén stáit a léirigh bá leis an rud atá ar lorg ag Gaeilgeoirí agus pobal na hÉireann?

Recently, I told a member of the public I would raise a question he put to me in the House at the first opportunity. Why was the status of the Irish language not addressed during our Presidency and before the accession of the new member states?

Níl an tAire ag déanamh a dhícheall ar son stádas na Gaeilge. Cad faoi stádas na Gaeilge sa tír seo? Tá an nuachtán laethiúil Ghaeilge,, faoi bhrú agus tá daoine ag iarraidh an deontas atá ag dul do a bhaint agus an t-aon nuachtán laethiúil Ghaeilge a chur ó dhoras. I ask specifically about the language daily, , which will have its funding removed. Unionist politicians, in particular, argue that it does not deserve funding. An gcosnóidh an tAire an nuachtán seo? Will he protect this newspaper because it is extremely important?

An nglacann an tAire go bhfuil an-difríocht idir teanga conartha agus teangacha eile sa Spáinn, mar shampla, nach dteangacha conartha iad agus nach bhfuil comparáid ann? Tuigim nach bhfuil litir ann, agus tá díoma orm nach bhfuil, ach ar labhair an tAire go pearsanta, nó ar labhair ionadaíocht ar a shon, sa Bhruiséil le stáit eile faoin gceist seo? Tá sé ag rá go bhfuil sí á plé idir dhaoine ach ní dúirt sé go raibh sé féin ag plé léi go díreach. Ar labhair sé go pearsanta le hionadaíocht buan sa Bhruiséil faoi stádas na Gaeilge?

As regards our position during the discussions on the European constitution, the status of a number of languages, Basque, Catalan and Galician, was raised and it was agreed that the treaty would be translated into these languages, which is similar to the position regarding the Irish language. A declaration on minority languages was also agreed but there was no question of reopening the issue of Article 1 of the 1958 treaty.

The Government made a decision to pursue this issue in July last and since then significant progress has been achieved. Our representatives in Brussels have made direct contact with all the member states and there has been a degree of positive reaction towards and understanding of our position regarding the Irish language. At the same time, however, the question of the status of other minority languages that do not have recognition in the European Union also arises. We will need to overcome this issue given that unanimity is essential in this regard.

Chuir mé ceist dhíreach faoi.

I do not know what is the position regarding the newspaper,. The Deputy will have to raise the matter with the Minister with direct responsibility.

Chuir mise ceist.

I answered the question regarding discussions on the European constitution.

The Minister did not provide an explanation. Why was the matter not pursued during the Presidency? Why did we wait until July when it had expired to follow up the issue when the most opportune time to do so was before the accession of the new states?

Chuir mé ceist agus tá mé ag fanacht ar fhreagra go fóill. Ar labhair an tAire go pearsanta? An mbeadh suim aige sa cheist gon-ardófadh sé í le baill stáit eile? An bhfuil suim aige i gceist freisin, mar tá sé, mar Aire Gnothaí Eachtracha, ag plé le daoine ar an dá thaobh ó Thuaidh agus is féidir leis an cheist a chur ansin? Is ceist don Tuaisceart é fosta.

I will have to check the position regardingin the Department. I understand the reason the matter was not raised during the Presidency was that the Irish language became a real issue with the accession of ten new countries.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.