Ireland's Gaelic added to official roster at EU
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
DUBLIN, Ireland - The European Union is saying "Failte!" - Welcome! - to
Gaelic, Ireland's little-used native tongue.
But while official status is a boost to those campaigning to save the
language from extinction, the move comes with a price: It will require the
hiring of an estimated 30 Gaelic speakers at a cost to EU taxpayers of about
$4.15 million annually.
Translation costs for the EU's 20 official languages had already been
spiraling out of control. In January, officials said the amount was set to
pass $1 billion following the entry in 2004 of 10 new EU members, chiefly
from Eastern Europe.
Critics also say the EU bureaucracy in Brussels, Belgium, has become a Tower
of Babel that bogs down decision-making, leading to calls for a drastic
reduction in the number of languages used officially.
Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said the Irish language's new EU status would
require legislation to be translated into Gaelic, while live translations in
Gaelic would be provided at EU meetings if the Irish speaker requested it in
Ahern said the move would go into effect Jan. 1, 2007, after which any Irish
representative could be free to speak Gaelic, rather than Ireland's
universally spoken English, at EU official functions.
Ireland had been campaigning for official EU recognition of Gaelic since the
first half of 2004, when the Irish held the rotating presidency of the bloc
as it expanded from 15 to 25 members.
The promotion of Gaelic is widely viewed as a political sacred cow in
Ireland, even though elected representatives and officials - like the
population at large - almost exclusively use English. In Ireland's own
parliament, less than 2 percent of business is conducted in Gaelic.