MEP Mary Banotti on making her maiden speech to the European Parliament some years ago, addressed the house in Irish and was told by the Chairperson to resume her seat, or to speak in English, Ireland's official language (in the EU). Ms Banotti continued her speech in Italian.
Each and every EU citizen pays a tax of €2 per year to pay for the Union's translation facilities. In other words, we in Ireland are paying for the translation of Union business into languages such as French, Spanish, Italian and will soon pay for Latvian and Maltese translations amongst others.
STÁDAS, a group comprised of representatives of Irish language groups, educators and legal figures, has been formed to lobby the Government on the issue. It says the exclusion of Irish at an official level is putting the language under pressure. An online petition has been organized and 79,153 have signed the petition to date.
For Irish to be recognised as an official working language of the European Union, it would take very little from the Government. There would be no negotiation involved. All that is required is that the Government informs the European Commission that it wishes to include Irish as an official working language.
The history of the language has always been intertwined with the economic, political and social history of Ireland. As a new, enlarged, and theoretically all inclusive Europe begins, is there a place for Europe's second oldest language?