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EU's top court holds its first hearing in Irish

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By Meabh McMahon
EU's top court holds its first hearing in Irish
Copyright  Julien Warnand/MTI/MTVA
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Linguists are raising a glass after the EU's top court held its first hearing in the Irish language on Thursday.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) can hear cases in any of the bloc's two-dozen official languages.

But this is the first time in nearly 50 years it has been done so in Irish.

"We are delighted that our case is being heard by the European Court of Justice, the first case in the Irish language," Irish language activist Peadar Mac Fhlannchadha told Euronews. "This adds to the legal status of the Irish language particularly as we head towards the Irish language gaining full status as an EU language from the beginning of 2022."

The case, referred to the ECJ from Ireland, centred on a complaint that the Irish government had failed to implement EU rules requiring labelling on veterinary products to be in both official languages of the state, Irish and English, rather than just the latter.

"Today to see it finally in the European Court of Justice, there is a huge element of pride that we have grown up with the language, and that finally we are ready to be on the big stage discussing and debating issues in our own language," said Micheál Ó Conchúir, secretary-general of the European Alliance Group in the Committee of the Regions, the EU's advisory body of locally and regionally elected representatives.

From next year, the Irish language will move even more centre stage when it becomes a fully-fledged working language of the EU institutions.

Numerous jobs will be up for grabs as translators and interpreters in Irish, but with only 100,000 native Irish speakers out of a population of 4,5 million, the challenge will be to find the staff and lure them to Brussels and Luxembourg.