Publié le 30/01/04 19:26 -- mis à jour le 00/00/00 00:00
by Eoghan O Neill
"We will see if there is a middle road on this. I do not want to give the Deputy the impression that we can go the whole way because that is not possible. I have been lobbied on this and have examined it and I know it is not possible to do what the Deputy wishes."
This was Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's response in Dáil Éireann this week to a demand from Deputy Enda Kenny that he seek official status for Irish in Europe. It sent shock waves through those who support the campaign of STÁDAS.
Speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday Bertie Ahern said that progress could be made on facilitating some aspects of the case put by the Irish language lobby.
He announced that Minister Eamann Ó Cuív has set up a small group to examine ways in which Irish could be promoted in the European Union. Official status was not possible however he stressed.
The Taoiseach referred to the fact that Irish was not used fully in the work of parliamentary and judicial administration in the Republic of Ireland and said that it would not be eligible therefore for official status.
Dr Pádraig Ó Laighin of STÁDAS said that the Taoiseach's statement to the Dáil was full of inaccuracies and revealed a complete lack of understanding of many of the issues.
"The Taoiseach's statement about the legal basis for languages to be made official languages of the EU was not correct....he should have been aware that what he said about why Irish wasn't recognised as an official language initially was inaccurate....as regards the amount of documents which must be translated to official languages the Taoiseach evidently misunderstands this...and what he says about the Parliament and Courts is not accurate either."
Aoife Ní Scollaí of Conradh na Gaeilge said that the Taoiseach's statement changed little. "We will continue with the campaign and we will succeed. This campaign has only been going for about a month and the government is feeling the pressure and they will feel the pressure even more in the weeks ahead.”
“The main problem is not in Europe - the problem is that our government has yet to ask the EU for official status for Irish.”
Ms Ní Scollaí added that: “No one in government has yet explained why they will not ask for official status for the language, and until they ask for it this campaign will continue to strengthen and grow."
There is no doubt that the Taoiseach's comments have angered ordinary Irish speakers and the wider community who have supported the campaign. Whether his rejection will take the wind out of the sails of the STÁDAS campaign or merely serve to invigorate it remains to be seen.
STÁDAS will be meeting Minister Ó Cuív on 11 February at what will now certainly be a heated exchange.