The Irish language is to be given official and working status in the European Union.

EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Luxembourg today supported the proposal, and Irish will now become the 21st official language of the European Union.

This will mean that from 1 January 2007, all key EU legislation will be translated into Irish. Plans to extend this to other legislation will be reviewed four years later.

At ministerial level, provisions will be put in place for Irish to be spoken at council meetings. On a practical level, Irish citizens applying for jobs with EU institutions, where two or more official EU languages are required, will be able to put down Irish from January 2007.

However, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said between 20-30 translators would have to be employed in various EU institutions, at a cost of €3.5m each year.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, welcomed today's unanimous decision.

He said it represented a particularly significant practical step for the language, and complemented the Government's wider policy of strong support for Irish in Ireland.