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Sinn Féin Motion Calls for official status for the Irish language within the European Union

21 January, 2004

Sinn Féin Councillors Breandán Lewis and Brendan Curran have forwarded a motion to Newry & Mourne District Council asking the Taoiseach to call for official status for the Irish language within the European Union.

The Motion Reads;

"That this Council calls upon the Taoiseach to bring about a proposal to the European Council during his term of Presidency to amend regulations 1/1958 to include the Irish Language as an official working language of the European Union."

Councillor Lewis said that support for the motion, calling on Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to use the Irish Presidency of the European Council to include Irish as an official working language of the European Union, which he and Councillor Brendan Curran were putting before Newry & Mourne District Council meeting to be held on Monday 19th January, would give a further boost to the growing campaign on this issue.

Speaking ahead of the meeting Councillor Lewis said;

"The failure of the Irish Government over thirty years ago, when Ireland joined the EEC, to have Irish recognised as an official working language was a disgrace. The attitude of successive Irish Governments to the issue is an equally disgraceful indictment on their policies towards the Irish Language in general. During its term of Presidency of the European Union the Irish Government now has an opportunity to redress the situation. This year, with the accession of new States into the Union, the number of official languages of the Union will rise from 11 to 20. It is surely inconceivable that Irish could remain the only native language of a State that would still not have official status within that Union. The European Union has long prided itself for its inclusiveness and recognition of diversity within the member States. Indeed in its own programme for its term of Presidency the Irish Government states as one of its priorities to „ Preserve the richness of cultural diversity in Europe in every respect.‰ We would have to wonder at the sincerity of this and question the Irish Government‚s confidence in its own people if they are not prepared to recognise and preserve the richness of our own Irish culture.

"While Irish should always have been an official language of the European Union, developments in the past 30 years have made it all the more important that it is now included. Despite Government neglect, indifference and hostility north and south the Irish Language has seen significant development. Irish Language Media, Irish Medium Education, Irish Language Business Initiatives and general interest in the language have seen substantial growth throughout Ireland. The Irish Language is as much at ease on the Internet or world wide web as any other language. While Irish speakers and language groups recognise that much more is needed there is no question that the demand and need to promote the language and culture exists.

"International recognition of the language would at this stage have a huge impact and influence on Irish speakers and learners as well as opening up further employment opportunities for Irish speakers.

"Newry and Mourne Council has been to the forefront in Irish Language recognition and development in local government in Ireland. On numerous occasions this has been acknowledged by representatives of the Irish Government, including current Cabinet Members. The support of this Council will have some influence and will certainly add to the work of Stadas, an umbrella group of diverse language groups, organisations and individuals campaigning throughout Ireland with the support of many political parties on this issue. A positive response might also convince Irish speakers that there is or ever was a serious intent to address the issues of the Irish Language contained in the Good Friday Agreement.

"Proper status for the Irish Language can be achieved. There is no opposition from the citizens or Governments of the other Member States. The question is does the Irish Government have the will or inclination to do anything about it?

"I ndiaidh mhéadú na Bealtaine, beidh 20 teanga oifigiúil ag an Aontas Eorpach. Is deis mhaith é seo do Rialtas na hÉireann ceist stádas na Gaeilge a ardú arís agus an stádas cuí a bhaint amach di. Níl pobal na dtíortha eile san Aontas, ná a cguid Rialtas, in éadan an aitheantais sin a bhronnadh ar an nGaeilge. Níl de dhíth chun aitheantais iomlán a fháil don Ghaeilge mar theanga oifigiúil de chuid an Aontais Eorpaigh ach toil pholaitiliúil ó thaobh Rialtais na hÉireann de. Beidh an Aontas Eorpach sásta stádas teanga oifigiúil a thabhairt ach Rialtas na hÉireann í a lorg."

Supporting the Motion Sinn Féin Councillor Brendan Curran said;

"The motion to council is an expression of our desire that the Irish language be given international status and recognition. Support for this motion would be both a positive and practical means to bring this about.

"In May the European Union will have 20 officially recognised languages. The fact that Bertie Ahern is now President of the European Council presents us with a golden opportunity to secure official recognition for the Irish language. We are certain that no other country would oppose such a move. It has already been acknowledged that this should have happened 30 years ago when Ireland first entered the European Union.

"We earnestly believe that support and goodwill exists within the structures of the European Union to grant official status to the Irish language if the Government of Ireland would just ask for it.

"I am asking all councilors to support this motion and demonstrate that we are united in promoting the present bilingual policy practiced by Newry and Mourne District Council."ENDS

Note; Motion was passed with support from SDLP. Unionist Councillors opposed the motion

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