Irish language EU status welcomed by Coláiste na nGael

Irish language EU status welcomed by Coláiste na nGael

THE GRANTING of full official and working status to the Irish language has been welcomed by a group that promotes and encourages the use of Irish in England.

Christy Evans, founder of Coláiste na nGael that has been operating in England for the past 25 years, said that the language receiving the status has been something the group has been keen on for years.

"We actually went to the Netherlands with a group of delegates in 2010 to promote the language," Christy said.

"There are 200 Irish people in well-paid jobs in Brussels now and the cost of that is only something like 30p a year, means that the language should be there."

Irish deserves to be a working language in the EU because it is surprisingly popular when looking at other countries.

"You have English, Spanish, French, German and Italian, and after that Irish is about the seventh most used language in the council chamber," he explained.

"That's because the Estonians are using English, the Dutch are using English and the Slovakians are using English, so the Irish language is punching well-above its weight."

Christy also recalled how former Fine Gael politician and MEP Mary Banotti was shouted down in Europe when she tried to speak in Irish 20 years ago.

"She had married Italian man, and she got up and gave a speech in the European Parliament in Irish and she was more or less shouted down," he said.

"So instead she spoke in Italian because she wasn't going to speak English in the European Parliament. Things like that are why we should have Irish in the European Union and why we are very happy to have it now. We're not trying to make everybody else speak Irish or to force it on anybody."

A new report from Údarás na Gaeltachta has also shown that in 2021 the region had the highest number of jobs created in one year since 2008.

In its end of year statement, Údarás na Gaeltachta says that 825 jobs were created in Gaeltacht companies in 2021.

At the end of the year, there were over 7,809 full-time and 485 part-time jobs in companies supported by Údarás.

This is important for the language to stay alive, Christy said.

"A lot of non-Irish speaking people seem to think that in the Gaeltacht people get grants for thatching a roof or painting a sign in Irish, but that's not true," he said. "Average income in Gaeltacht areas is lower and unemployment is higher, so I think it is great that Údarás na Gaeltachta are bringing improvement to the areas."

Without living communities that speak the language daily, it won't survive, Christy believes.

"You don't want to have beautiful villages and communities where nearly everybody is a blow-in or a retiree from Dublin or abroad, and all the Irish speaking children are forced to leave for Cork or London or Chicago or wherever to get jobs.

"The Gaeltacht isn't a theme park - we want it to have high-paid and well-paid jobs because that's how it will develop and survive.

"Valuing the Gaeltacht for what it is and also seeing it as a useful economic tool is also going to help the language and local communities," he finished.