Published: Thu, 26 May 2022
In Belfast on Saturday (May 21) upwards of 17,000 people took part in a peaceful march to call for Irish language legislation in Northern Ireland to be delivered as promised. Speaking from a Delegation visit to Lisbon, Seán Kelly, MEP for Ireland South praised the organisers and participants.
“It was incredibly heartening to see the thousands marching in Belfast to call for protections for the Irish language. It was quite possibly the biggest Irish language demonstration of a generation and it is my sincere hope it translates into more uptake of the language across the entire island of Ireland. It makes me feel quite positive for the language’s future.”
“Tá athbheochan á tharlú ó thaobh an Gaeilge de. Féach ar na sluaite a fhreastal ar an morshiúl i mBéal Feiriste, agus an méid daoine óga a bhí ina measc. Ach fós tá an Ghaeilge i stad leochaileach, agus tá cosaint agus tacaíocht ó rialtas na Ríochta Aontaoithe riachtannas chun gur féidir leis an teanga leanúint air ag dul ó neart go neart.”
The Ireland South representative has spoken in Irish regularly in plenary sessions of the European Parliament since his election to Brussels in 2009. While Irish has been an official EU language since 2007, it only achieved full working status on 1 January 2022, which allowed Kelly, a fluent Gaeilgeoir, to carry out his legislative work in Irish.
“The EU has given full recognition to the Irish language, which was a proud day, not only for myself personally as a fluent speaker, but to all the supporters and Gaeilgeoirs across the world who have grown the language in recent decades. Having Irish legally recognised in the EU has sent a strong signal, encouraging more young people to speak it, providing career opportunities for speakers and established international recognition of the language”
“Legal protections for the Irish language in Northern Ireland were key part of the New Decade, New Approach agreement that restored power sharing in January 2020. Irish is one of the oldest and most historic written languages in the world and it deserves legal status across the island. This does not have to be, nor should be, a divisive issue. It should be a celebration. Therefore, I welcome the UK government’s proposal to introduce Irish language legislation and I hope it gets full support from both houses of Parliament.”
Kelly also used the opportunity to highlight the abundance of career opportunities that exist for Northern Irish people in the EU institutions.
“Whether you’re interested in working in translation, or in totally different field, being proficient in Irish will now open doors for you in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg. I strongly encourage everyone, from recent graduates to seasoned professionals, to consider a career in the EU. It’s challenging and highly rewarding, as you’re working on behalf of almost 450 million people.”