Thursday, September 29, 2005

Irish in the EU

The EU Law Blog posts on the new language provisions for the European council. This caused a bit of a stir in Irish politics and in the Irish blogosphere for two lazy Junes in a row. See, here, here and, in a roundabout way, here. For a great opinion piece from last year, see Maria on Crooked Timber.

It's not much of a surprise that what advertised isn't quite what was got. We knew that, as the EU Law Blog notes, 'the member State of the language in issue bears the cost of its use.' What now transpires is that
there is a derogation for 5 years renewable according to which the institutions are not bound to draft all acts and publish them in Irish. The Council can review that derogation every five years and decide unanimously to end it.
To my mind this isn't all that bad an outcome. Or at least, it could be worse: at least this is cheaper.

Beyond an ego-massage for my fellow Irish language enthusiasts, the Irish language's status in EU institutions is, um, somewhat unlikely to have any particular impact on usage of the language in Ireland. The whole tedious debate was riven with ill-informed hyperbole from the start. I was particularly irritated by the spectacular ignorance of the main proponents of the change of the difference between a working language and an official language. You'd think they'd bone up before getting involved in the debate.

So, we arrive at an Irish solution to an Irish problem, not for the first time in the history of our relations with the EU: talk the nationalist talk, walk the pragmatic walk. On one level, I'm glad to see it was a dishonest sop: at least it confirms that Ireland's politicians have some degree of practical sense.

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