It was agreed in June 2005 that Irish would become the 21st language of the EU following a campaign by the Government. But it has emerged the Government has failed to fulfil the criteria set out by the EU when official status was granted.
This is despite offering €300 per day or €90,000 a year for nine interpreters who need to be recruited.
When official status was granted a year and a half ago, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said between 20 and 30 translators would have to be employed in various EU institutions, at a cost of €3.5 million each year.
However, the European Commission confirmed yesterday that just five translators are in place. Because of the shortfall, only regulations adopted jointly by the European Parliament and the council will be translated for the next five years.
A commission spokesperson said interpretation would not be available in the European Parliament or during Council of Europe meetings “possibly until the summer of 2007”.
“There are virtually no interpreters available who can work from Irish. The commission’s interpreting service, working hand in hand with that of the European Parliament, has set in motion measures to help Ireland train interpreters for the institutions. Three staff interpreters and one accredited freelance interpreter are preparing to add Irish to their language combinations,” the spokesperson said.
After advertising the positions twice, five interpreters were given European Parliament bursaries to train in Irish language interpretation, which they began in October.
There are two native Irish-speaking MEPs in the European Parliament: Bairbre de Brún (SF) and Sean Ó Neachtain (FF). Other MEPs have indicated that they might start using the language in the parliament once it is made official.
If they chose to address the parliament in their native language interpretation would not be provided.
Ms de Brún said: “Much of the preparatory work was not done as quickly as it should have been by the Irish Government and the EU institutions. As a result, the parliament and other institutions will place restrictions on what will be possible in Irish in the initial period.
“The timetable for restrictions on what can be done through the medium of Irish should not become open-ended. We are confident that our consistent pressure and campaigning has led to fewer restrictions than might otherwise have been the case and we will remain vigilant to ensure that even these restrictions are brought to an end as soon as possible.”