Fianna Fáil’s MEP candidate in Midlands North West, Thomas Byrne, has said that ending the second class status of Irish in the European Parliament will be a priority for him, if elected.

“Many people believe that Irish was accorded full recognition as one of the twenty-four official and working official languages of the EU back in 2007. However, that formal recognition was only on paper. Nothing changed in practice because of a legal loophole that allowed the Parliament to defer full recognition until 2007 and for another five years until 31st December 2016. This derogation – as it is called – means that not all EU institutions are obliged to translate laws or documents into Irish.

“This is an issue of jobs and rights. The Irish language organisations have estimated that more than 180 jobs could be created for translators and interpreters if this discrimination against Irish was ended. Unfortunately, it seems to be part of a pattern of disregard for the rights of minority language speakers by the European Parliament. The Parliament must spend the money needed to employ more staff proficient in Irish and the European Union’s other minority languages so as to recognise the rights of people who speak them.

“In the case of Maltese, for example, the derogation was lifted after three years and the EU gave provisional contracts to Maltese speakers to enable them to gain the required qualifications for appointment. The same could be done for Irish, with recruitment competitions for long term and provisional contracts to be held this year, next year and in 2016.

“If nothing is done, the derogation discriminating against Irish is due to be renewed for another five years in 2016. I am calling on the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to begin the necessary work at EU level to ensure that the derogation will be scrapped and that Irish is given full, practical recognition by 2016. This would be an appropriate way to honour the centenary of the 1916 Proclamation which referenced a European dimension.