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FactCheck: No, British English isn't being replaced with Irish English as the EU's working language

A satirical article from Luxembourg has been shared thousands of times.


OVER THE PAST few weeks, TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck has been looking into numerous claims being made in the run up to the general election.

Often these are things that politicians say, but we also take a look at claims shared widely on social media. 

One of these is an article with the headline: “Irish English replaces British English as EU working language”. The article has been extremely popular on social media: it has been shared more than 6,600 times on Facebook, where it has more than 50,000 likes and comments, according to CrowdTangle. The post has also been shared thousands of times on Twitter. 

So what’s all this about then?

The claim

The piece published on Wurst.lu says that the change was announced by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. It says: 

Following the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union at the end of January, the EU has announced that Irish English will replace British English as the union’s primary working language. 

The Evidence

The most important factor in compiling the evidence is the status of the publication. Forgive us as this is a bit of a verdict spoiler, but Wurst.lu is a satirical site based out of Luxembourg. (Think Waterford Whispers News for Luxembourgers.)

Let’s take this opportunity though to have a look at what languages are used across Official Europe. 

The EU lists 24 official languages which are used across the bloc, including Irish and English. English has been an official language since 1973 when the UK and Ireland joined the EU, and is one of the three working languages of the European Commission along with French and German. 

Within that list of official EU languages, no distinction is made between different dialects of English. English is an official language, whatever dialect that may take – so “British English” isn’t seen as a separate language or dialect, and was never the “primary working language” of the EU.

Irish English and British English is the same language, with some small differences in how they are spoken. 

Some of the grammatical structures in Ireland are unique to this country and not common in British English, and vice versa. Irish English is closer to British English than American English when it comes to lots of spellings (think organisation, not organization). 

The article in question helpfully highlights numerous examples of how Irish English is a bit different:

The British are just after leaving, and fair play to them for getting what they wanted,” [European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen] said. “They’ve been part of this union for donkey’s years, so I amn’t saying that we won’t miss them… Starting today, all of yous will switch to Hiberno-English for all meetings and the drafting of documents, translations, and the like.”

The article even references an EU interpreter who says she’ll be grand with the change as she once spent six months working at a Limerick pub. “This is going to be gas,” she said.

In case there was any doubt at this stage, Wurst.lu, the website that published the article, is a Luxembourg-based parody site.

It says in the about-us section: “The Luxembourg Wurst is an LGD (Luxembourg, Grand-Duché)-friendly humor and satire website about life in the world’s only remaining Grand Duchy.”


The claim was: “Irish English replaces British English as EU working language.”

It comes from a satirical website, and has no basis in fact.

As a result, we rate this claim: NONSENSE

As per our verdict guide, this means: The claim is wildly inaccurate, logically impossible, and/or ridiculous.

In fairness, as it came from a satirical site it was never claiming to be true. But there’s still a chance that among the thousands of shares, there was someone who was fooled.

So look, you know yourself, have a bit of cop on and don’t get caught out.

About the author:

Sean Murray

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