On strike: Sinn Féin MEP will only speak Irish in Brussels

Sinn Féin's Liadh Ní Riada is going on "language strike" in her work as a Member of the European Parliament.

On strike: Sinn Féin MEP  will only speak Irish in Brussels

Sinn Féin's Liadh Ní Riada is going on "language strike" in her work as a Member of the European Parliament.

Cork's Ní Riada is Sinn Féin's Irish language officer, and announced her strike yesterday during a conference on language rights hosted by Conradh na Gaeilge in Dublin.

Ní Riada said her 'stailc teanga' would last for two and a half weeks during Seachtain an Gaeilge, which runs from March 1-17, and is in protest against "the derogation of Irish in the EU".

"This means I will only speak Irish in my work with the European Institutions as a protest against the derogation," she wrote in the English-language version of her statement.

"My aim is to draw attention to derogation and to encourage the Irish Language community and the Irish people in general to put pressure on the Government to remedy the situation."

The EU derogation on the Irish language means that although it was recognised as an official language of the EU in 2007, staff are not required to translate or interpret the language for use in official business, as is standard practice with other languages.

That limitation is due to end next year, but will be renewed by the European Commission unless the Irish Government makes a formal request to end the derogation.

If it does not, the next opportunity to change the process will be at the end of another five-year cycle in 2020.

Ní Riada claims abolishing the derogation will create 188 jobs in Europe in the Irish language, "at no great cost to the European Union".

She said she has invited other MEPs who speak Irish to join her campaign.

“It saddens me that as a public representative, an Irish person, and a woman from the Gaeltacht who grew up with Irish, that I cannot use my own language as I go about my work.

"It angers me when I sit in Parliament and I am told at the beginning of each meeting that an interpretation service is available in each language. Of course Irish is excluded and ignored."

A spokesperson for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said the department was consulting with relevant parties ahead of the December 2015 deadline for a decision.

"The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, in conjunction with the Department of An Taoiseach, continues to be actively engaged with the EU institutions in order to formulate specific proposals on the optimal approach to the derogation," the Department said in a statement.

"The outcome of that engagement will inform the proposals that will be brought to Government in due course."

– Dave Molloy

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