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Brussels made 17 errors translating the ESM Treaty into Irish

Dáil approval was needed this week to correct 17 grammatical mistakes, and typos, in the Irish version of the Treaty.

Michael Noonan required Dáil approval to make 17 changes to the ESM treaty, correcting mistakes made in the European translation.
Michael Noonan required Dáil approval to make 17 changes to the ESM treaty, correcting mistakes made in the European translation.

DÁIL APPROVAL was needed this week to give the Irish language version of the Treaty establishing the Eurozone’s new permanent bailout fund the once-over – after the official translation was found to contain 17 grammatical errors.

Michael Noonan was forced to seek Dáil approval to make 17 small amendments to the European Stability Mechanism Treaty Bill 2012 after a thorough examination of the original Irish text provided by the European Council was found to carry several errors.

Irish laws which allow the country to ratify international treaties include the full text of that treaty as a ‘schedule’, or attachment, to those laws – meaning the full text of the ESM Treaty, in English and Irish, is included in the Bills which are put through the Oireachtas.

This is to ensure that any later amendments to those treaties cannot have legal effect in Ireland without a similar amendment being approved by the Oireachtas.

“In the course of preparing the European Stability Mechanism Bill 2012 it emerged that some corrections were required to the Irish language version of the treaty, as held by the European Commission,” Noonan told the Dáil.

“Before correcting the Irish version of the European Stability Mechanism treaty attached to the Bill, the Irish version of the treaty held by the European Commission had to be amended.”


In order to ease the process of amending any incorrect translations, European law provides for an informal arrangement, called the ‘procès-verbal‘, which allows minor grammatical and typographical adjustments to treaties as long as they are agreed by each of the participating countries.

Noonan said each of the other 16 countries which originally agreed the ESM had stated in writing that they had no objection to the amendments, meaning the version housed in Brussels had been corrected.

The Dáil’s approval was needed, however, to ensure that the version included in the legislation – copied from the original translation undertaken by the European Council – was amended to reflect the changes made to the original.

A number of the changes were needed to reflect the incorrect gender of Irish nouns, though the changes also included replacing the translation of ‘budgetary’ for ‘fiscal’, ‘conditional’ for ‘contingent’ (which also means ‘accidental’ in Irish) and ‘identical’ for ‘equivalent’.

Other errors included the English-language initials ESM instead of the translation SCE, the omission of the word ‘ansin’ (meaning ‘then’), and the use of the wrong plural for the word ‘subscriptions’.

Some fadas were also left off some words, and séimhiú characters left out of some phrases.

The changes were approved without opposition, before the Dáil formally approved the amended version by 114 votes to 22.

The European Union spends an estimated €300 million a year translating documents into each of the union’s 23 languages, which since 2007 has included Irish as a ‘working language’, though treaties have been translated into Irish since Ireland joined the union in 1973.

Read: Dáil approves Ireland’s ratification of new Eurozone bailout fund

More: Noonan to continue promissory note campaign at Eurozone ministers’ meeting

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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