European Court of Justice to hear first case in Irish – on veterinary medicine labelling

This Thursday (January 14), the European Court of Justice will hear its first case in the Irish language since Ireland joined the EU.

The applicant, a native Irish speaker from a Gaeltacht village in Co. Galway, has brought a complaint that the information accompanying veterinary medicinal products is solely in English and not in both official languages of the state – Irish and English.

He speaks Irish at home and at work, and conducts all his official business as gaeilge as far as the resources are available to allow for him to do so. He has a pet dog, so he requires veterinary medicinal products.

In his opinion, information on these products only being wirtten in English constituted an infringement of Directive 2001/82/EC.

In 2016, the applicant went to the High Court seeking leave to take a judicial review regarding what he claimed was the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s “failure to transpose the directive correctly in respect of its language requirements”.

That leave was granted and the case was heard in the court in the summer of 2018.

The applicant sought relief “arising from the failure of the minister and the state to transpose the directive”, this relief being a declaration that Irish law must ensure that the “appropriate particulars on the package leaflets and packaging in question” are placed on veterinary medicinal products on the market in both Irish and English, and that both are given equal priority in terms of font size and clarity.

In 2019, the High Court decided to refer this case to European Court of Justice.

Directive 2001/82/EC

Article 61(1) of the directive states, as relates to this case (there is, as yet, no official Irish version): “The inclusion of a package leaflet in the packaging of veterinary medicinal products shall be obligatory unless all the information required by this article can be conveyed on the immediate packaging and the outer packaging.

Member states shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the package leaflet relates solely to the veterinary medicinal product – with which it is included.

“The package leaflet shall be written in terms that are comprehensible to the general public and in the official language or languages of the member state in which the medicinal product is marketed.”