Irish 101

In Ireland

Irish is given recognition by the Constitution of Ireland as the national and first official language of Ireland (with English being a second official language). Since the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922, the Irish Government required a degree of proficiency in Irish for all those who became newly appointed to civil service positions (including postal workers, tax officials, agricultural inspectors, etc.). Proficiency in just one official language for entrance to the public service was introduced in 1974, in part through the actions of protest organizations like the Language Freedom Movement.

While the First Official Language requirement was also dropped for wider public service jobs, Irish remains a required subject of study in all schools within the Republic which receive public money. Those wishing to teach in primary schools in the State must also pass a compulsory examination called "Scrúdú Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge". The need for a pass in Leaving Certificate Irish or English for entry to the Gardaí (police) was introduced in September 2005, although applicants are given lessons in the language during the two years of training. All official documents of the Irish Government must be published in both Irish and English or Irish alone (this is according to the official languages act 2003, which is enforced by "an comisinéir teanga", the language ombudsman).

The National University of Ireland requires all students wishing to embark on a degree course in the NUI federal system, must pass the subject Irish in the Leaving Certificate or GCE/GCSE Examinations. Exemption are made from this requirement for students born outside of the Republic and students diagnosed with having dyslexia.

In 1938, the founder of Conradh na Gaeilge (The Gaelic League), Douglas Hyde, was inaugurated as the first President of Ireland. The record of his delivering his auguration Declaration of Office in his native Roscommon Irish remains almost the only surviving remnant of anyone speaking in that dialect.

The National University of Ireland, Galway is required to appoint a person who is competent in the Irish language, as long as they meet all other respects of the vacancy they are appointed to. This requirement is laid down by the University College Galway Act, 1929 (Section 3). It is expected that the requirement may be repealed in due course.

Even though modern parliamentary legislation is supposed to be issued in both Irish and English, in practice it is frequently only available in English. This is notwithstanding that Article 25.4 of the Constitution of Ireland requires that an "official translation" be provided of any law in one official language be translated immediately into the other official language—if not already passed in both official languages.

In Northern Ireland

Prior to the establishment of the Northern Ireland state in 1921, Irish Gaelic was recognised as a school subject and as "Celtic" in some third level institutions. This policy continued in spite of attempts in the 1930s to restrict it further in the curriculum. Between 1921 and 1972, Northern Ireland had a measure of devolved government. During those years the political party holding power in the Stormont Parliament, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), were hostile to Gaelic. In broadcasting, there was an exclusion on the reporting of minority cultural issues, and the Irish language was banned from radio and television for almost the first fifty years of the Northern Ireland state. The language received a degree of formal recognition in Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom, under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The British government promised to create legislation encouraging the language as part of the 2006 St Andrews Agreement.

In the European Union

While an official language of the European Union, only co-decision regulations must be produced in Irish for the moment, due to a renewable five-year derogation on what has to be translated, requested by the Irish Government when negotiating the language's new official status. Any expansion in the range of documents to be translated will depend on the results of the first five-year review and on whether the Irish authorities decide to seek an extension. The Irish government has committed itself to train the necessary number of translators and interpreters and to bear the related costs.

Before Irish became an official language on 1 January 2007, it was afforded the status of treaty language and only the highest-level documents of the EU had been translated into Irish.

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