Publié le 24/01/04 16:48 -- mis à jour le 00/00/00 00:00
by Michelle Nic Pháidín
Yesterday was a historic day in Seanad Éireann (the second house or Senate of the Irish Parliament) when an all party motion called on the Irish Government to seek Official Status for the Irish language in the EU. It stated:‘That Seanad Éireann calls on the Government to avail of the opportunity, given Ireland’s presidency of the European Union, and the fact that the accession of new members to the EU will result in a recognition of additional languages in the Union, to have the Irish language recognised as an official working language of the EU and it’s institutions.’
The motion was proposed by Senators Joe McHugh, Labhrás ó Murchú, Brendan Ryan, Joe O’ Toole and John Dardis. Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Tom Kitt was in the Seanad on behalf of the government. Joe Mc Hugh (FG) said that this should be a top priority during Ireland’s presidency. Labhrás Ó Murchú spoke passionately about the Irish language reminding all that the language belong to the country and not to a political party. He spoke about the renewed confidence of the Irish people in the language and it’s significance. ‘Government lip service is not enough’ he said.
Joe O’Toole (IND) is not happy that the language is at the back of the queue and declared that Irish should have equal status with other languages. John Dardis (PD) praised the sociologist, Dr Pádraig Ó Laighin’s submission to the National Forum on Europe. He said that he and his party were pleased to support this motion.
Brendan Ryan was adamant that it was the country’s prerogative to seek official status in the EU. Referring to the Minister of State, Tom Kitt, who was present on behalf of the government ‘the Minister has but to say the word’ - the government ‘needs only to request it’. He also said that it is the will of the people that the Irish language should have a future.
Michael Kitt (FF) said it was practical and realistic that Irish be given official status in the EU and quoted Conradh na Gaeilge ‘s slogan ‘ní gá ach í a iarraidh’. James Bannon (FG) reminded the Minister of State that Irish was the only official language that does not have official status in the EU. And asked very simply of the government: ‘What’s stopping you from acting on this?’
Ann Ormonde (FF) said it was ‘shocking that Irish was not recognised as an official language in the EU and that this needs to be put right’. She declared her determination to change this. Speaking on behalf of the government, Tom Kitt, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, said that discussions are taking place between his Department and the Dept of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and that steps are being taken but that it is likely to take some time.
Senator Jim Higgins was clearly unhappy with what the Minister had to say and said without hesitation that this is the most opportune time to approach this issue and that the government has no excuse. He said that the Minister of State had given no explanation whatsoever for not seeking official status for Irish.
Joe McHugh joined in by saying that he was not at all happy with the Minister of State’s response. He reminded the Minister of State that Irish citizens are being denied equality and their rights.
Senator Mary O’Rourke gave her full support to the motion and said that she would convey the unanimous decision of the Seanad to the Taoiseach next week.