Irish language gains full official and working status in the European Union


The Government of Éire has said that there is a "bright future in store for the Irish language", as it gains full official and working status in the institutions of the European Union.


The derogation of the status of the Irish language in the European institutions ends at midnight tonight (31 December 2021) and its status will now be on a par with other official languages of the EU.


The Irish language was given official and working status on 1 January 2007. However, a derogation arrangement has been in place since then due to a shortage of translation staff which restricted the amount of material translated into Irish.


Government Chief Whip and Minister of State for the Gaeltacht and Sport, Jack Chambers TD, said: “The end of the derogation of the status of the Irish language in the European Union is a crucial step in the development and future of the language. Irish is now on a par with other official and working EU languages and this will strengthen the relationship between citizens and European administrative systems. Together with the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021 signed by the President of Éire last week, the role of the Irish language in national and European systems of administration has now been significantly strengthened.”


"The European institutions and the staff of my Department deserve a great deal of credit for putting in place the appropriate structures and initiatives to achieve this goal. It was an ambitious project, but thanks to the close cooperation between the EU institutions, the Irish Government and stakeholders under the Advanced Irish Language Skills Initiative among many other initiatives and projects, the European institutions are now ready to translate the full suite of content into Irish along with other official and working languages of the EU.”


Irish was a treaty language when Éire became a Member State in 1973, which meant that only EU treaties were translated into Irish. The Irish Government applied in 2005 for Irish to become an official and working language and it was granted this status on 1 January 2007. Due to the shortage of translation staff and Irish language technological resources at the time, the scope of the status was derogated and the number of documents to be translated into Irish were limited.


The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, in conjunction with the European institutions, has undertaken a number of initiatives under the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language to fill this gap, such as the Advanced Irish Language Skills Initiative, an Internship Scheme, the LEX / IATE terminology project and digital and technological initiatives. As a result, there are over 170 Irish language staff in the European institutions today using facilities such as terminology databases, machine translation aids and computer-aided translation software to translate all documents into Irish. That number of staff will be increased to c. 200 early in 2022.


In support of those applying for language posts with the EU in the future, NUI Galway is now providing support material in Irish as it relates to the European Union's EPSO recruitment tests.