by Davyth Hicks
The Irish EU Presidency launched its cultural strategy for the next six months to the European Parliament’s Education and Culture committee last night. In the strategy they highlighted the importance of supporting and developing linguistic diversity in Europe. However, Ministers from the Irish government remained uncommitted to making Irish an official working language of the EU in the near future.
MEP Eurig Wyn (Plaid Cymru) asked the Minister for Education and Science, Noel Dempsey, about a monitoring centre for lesser-used languages, about creating a legal base for funding, and a multiannual programme for lesser-used language projects. Finally he asked the assembled Irish Ministers if they were going to take steps to make Irish an official EU language.
Mr Dempsey only replied that it was not his remit to talk about the Irish language issue but that of Minister Ó Cuiv.
John O’Donoghue, Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism, then spoke at length about the importance of linguistic diversity, of the threats to endangered languages in Europe, and of the promotion and development of Irish, which had become a minoritised language in Ireland following colonisation and later marginalisation.
Eurolang spoke to Minister O Donoghue immediately after the meeting asking that considering his support for linguistic diversity and Irish language development what did he think about making Irish an official EU language?
He replied: ‘Its a matter that will have to be revisited in the context of the accession countries coming in, whilst it would be the wish of the Irish people that Irish is recognised as a official language of the EU, we recognise the practical difficulties and tbe hurdles that have to be jumped in order to do that. But personally if you ask me as Minister for culture what is my view I would very much like to see us advance that position, but that has to be done through diplomatic channels'.
Eurolang contacted Dr. Pádraig Breandán Ó Laighin, chief of the ‘Stadas’ campaign in Ireland, he said that: ‘We are delighted to hear that Minister O'Donoghue supports our position in principle. The hurdles and practical difficulties which he refers to appear to be figments of the overactive imagination of unelected officials with negative attitudes. This is a matter of due legal procedure, through the Commission and Council of the ministers rather than one which we have to go diplomatically asking for with begging bowl in hand'.
Two weeks ago EU President Pat Cox, speaking on the Irish language radio station Raidió na Gaeltachta, also dismissed the idea of making Irish official in the EU for the time being.