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Statement by President Michael D. Higgins on the Irish language attaining full status in the European Union

Date: Sat 1st Jan, 2022 | 09:00

President calls on public to make a resolution to give the language a place in our daily lives.

“On this special historic occasion may I congratulate and send my best wishes to all those working with and through the Irish language in the European Union and at home.

Today is a significant day for the language, as it attains full status in the European Union with the ending of the Irish language derogation. This full status is an important recognition at international level of our specific identity as a people with a distinctive language of our own that we use alongside all the other languages we use and respect.

It places our language on an equal footing with those of the founding members of the Union, and those of the Member States who have joined over the years since. This is a significant achievement, and it will be gratifying for many people to know that, every day, the Irish language will now be in use in the European Union.

While the language will now be in every day use in the EU, we must now seize the opportunity to also take responsibility for ensuring that it means something in our own lives. I gcroílár gnóthaí laethúla na hEorpa; i gcroílár an tsaoil sa Bhaile.

Along with the Official Languages (Amendment) Bill, which I signed into law shortly before Christmas, I would urge people throughout Ireland to take this opportunity to renew their own relationship with our language, which is such an important part of our heritage.

Yes, we must learn the languages of our friends in Europe and use as much of their languages as we can, but there is immense significance to having our own language in use. We have made English our own, and we rightly take pride in our four Nobel laureates in literature in that language, but now we have a further linguistic tool for our reflections and exchanges.

I do not take lightly the many reasons why people do not always feel a strong connection to the language, not least the varied experiences which people may have had in the education system in decades past. However, I would suggest that now is the time to make one great effort for the language.

When Teilifís na Gaeilge was coming on the air, I said ‘give the Irish language another chance’. Now I say throw off all the inhibitions, the excuses, the laziness and as the language of our ancestors becomes at every level in daily usage in the European Union, let us go and make a resolution to give it a place in our daily lives at home – i lár an aonaigh, inár ngnáthcaint.

Today is a day of opportunity, when the Irish language joins so many others with full status in the European Union. However it is up to all of us to seize this new moment and to ensure that the language means something. We have, in this coming year not only a responsibility, but a joyful opportunity to ensure that our native language is available and valued by our future generations. The Irish language is part of us. Let us take this opportunity to make it part of all of our lives. Our young people are showing how it carries no burden of any exclusion or dismissal of others. Every generation can be part of our shared Irish, European, global multiple identities.

Let us all build on what we have and let January 1st 2022 be the year of the iarracht mhór ar son na teanga agus a dtugtar an t-ómós is cóir do gach teanga ar an domhain.”