An bhfuil Gaeilge agat? Irish is to be made a full working language of the EU, but will there be enough translators and interpreters to meet the demand?

Ten years ago, back in January 2007, the decision was made by the European Union to give the Irish language official status. This made it the 23rd language of the European Union, which was then followed by Croatian, after the country became a Member State in 2013. Up until that point, Irish had been a “treaty language”, with EU treaties being translated and Irish versions of the text being considered “equally authentic” to those in other languages.

Nevertheless, the struggle to fill posts for Irish language translators and interpreters has led to numerous delays in making Irish a full working language of the European Union. Temporary derogations were implemented from 2007-2012 and again from 2012-2016, which have meant that the obligation to provide full translation and interpretation services has been suspended. Another derogation was announced in 2017, to last until 2022. However, the Council has announced that the EU will gradually increase the number of documents it translates into Irish, with an aim to make Irish a full working language by 2022.

Why all the delays? Would it not have been more sensible to simply make Irish a full working language from the beginning? The main reason behind this is the lack of applicants who are qualified to take on such roles, in spite of the fact that all Irish school pupils up to the age of 18 must study the Irish language and extensive investment by both the European Union and Irish government. However, surveys show that only 100,000 residents in Ireland speak Irish on a daily basis (a small but not insignificant amount) with even fewer having Irish as their first language. Nevertheless, in order to achieve these ambitious targets, funding worth €3.87 million has been announced to help train 677 students the specialist skills necessary. With around 180 new jobs being created, it looks like there will be plenty of work to go round.


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