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A New Era for the Irish Language 

By Orla Leahy, News Editor

The 1st of January 2022 marked a significant date for the Irish language, as it reached the end of its derogation period to gain full official and working status in the European Union’s institutions. The derogation period had been in place since 2007, when the language was given official and working status, but deprived of full status due to the shortage of translation staff in the EU institutions. 

The EU is composed of seven institutions, as set out in the Treaties of the EU, the European Council, the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Court of Auditors and the European Ombudsman. 

Uachtarán na hÉireann, the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, has remarked that the new status of Irish as a full official and working language is a “significant achievement, and it will be gratifying for many people to know that, every day, the Irish language will now be in use in the European Union.” All legislation enacted across the institutions will now be translated into Irish, as is the case with the other 23 official and working languages of the Union. 

The ending of the derogation period marks an important turning point, not only for the Irish language but also for the career opportunities of UCC students. The EU institutions take on a number of interns and trainees each year, with the Irish Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media spearheading one specific internship scheme to achieve the objectives of the report, 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030. The internship facilitates the placement of ten interns within the EU institutions each October for a ten-month period. 

Applicants to this specific internship of the Irish government are required to have fluency in both Irish and English, whilst applicants to other internships of the institutions as translators, interpreters, proofreaders, linguistic assistants and secretaries are also required to have knowledge of a third official and working language of the EU. 

Applicants to the roles listed above are welcome from a variety of backgrounds. The new status of the Irish language has created more job opportunities for UCC students and alumni across varying degree programmes, with sufficient knowledge of the Irish language. However, one growing career opportunity is that of lawyer-linguists, who are also required to have a legal qualification. 

According to the official website of the European Commission, lawyer-linguists are responsible for ensuring, “that a particular linguistic version of a law accurately reflects what was agreed and written in the original version so that an EU law is applied in the same way from one EU Member State to another.” The role of lawyer-linguists provides an expanding career route for law and language graduates of the UCC School of Law, recently ranked by QSI to be within the top 100 law schools in the world. 

For UCC students who are interested in a career in the EU, and would like to develop their Irish language skills, Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha, the Centre for Spoken Irish in UCC offers frequent classes for students with varying levels of Irish. The deadline to apply for upcoming spring classes is 5 pm on January 27th. 

UCC alumni and current students who would like to seek a job in the new European market for Irish-language staff are encouraged to view @EUJobsIreland on social media, where the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs shares EU career opportunities. Applicants are also advised to register on the official European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO), where they can apply to open opportunities with their CV. Further information can be found in the annual Green Book produced by European Movement Ireland. 

The new status of the Irish language in the EU comes within a year after the Court of Justice heard it’s very first case conducted entirely in Irish, Case C-64/20. It is clear that the Irish language is going from strength to strength in the EU. In a national context, however, Michael D. Higgins suggested, at the beginning of this month, “that now is the time to make one great effort for the language. Let us go and make a resolution to give it a place in our daily lives at home – i lár an aonaigh, inár ngnáthcaint.