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Census 2011: 1.77m say they are able to speak Irish

In the latest census, people were asked if they were able to speak Irish and, if so, how frequently they did.

A cyclist studies his map at a junction in Ballyvaughn Co. Clare, Ireland in this May 22, 2002 file photo
A cyclist studies his map at a junction in Ballyvaughn Co. Clare, Ireland in this May 22, 2002 file photo
Image: JOHN COGILL/AP/Press Association Images

THE NUMBER OF people who say they are able to speak the Irish language has fallen to 1.77 million, according to the results of Ireland’s most recent census.

This figures represents 41.1 per cent of respondents – a slight decrease from 41.9 in 2006.

The question was broken down into two parts: individuals were asked if they were able to speak the language and, if so, the frequency with which they did so. Almost one in three (30.8 per cent) of 10 to 19 year olds said were not able to speak Irish.

More women than men identified themselves as being able to speak Irish, with 44.9 per cent of females saying they were able to speak the language compared with just 37.9 per cent of men. These result are identical to those from 2006.

Of the 1.77 million people who said they were able to speak the language:

  • 77,185 said they speak it  daily outside the education system
  • 110,642 said they spoke it weekly
  • 613,236 said they spoke it less often than weekly
  • One in four said they never spoke Irish

The number of people speaking Irish on a daily basis, who are not in school, increased  by 5,037 persons since 2006 from 72,148 to 77,185, according to the data.

There was an increase of 7,781 people who said they speak the language on a weekly basis, while those who spoke Irish less frequently showed the largest increase of 27,139 people.

Gaeltacht areas

Of the 77,185 daily Irish speakers who were not in the education system, just over one in three lived in Gaeltacht areas.

The population of all Gaeltacht areas as of April 2011 had increased by 5.2 per cent since 2006, rising from  91,862 to 96,628. Of these, 68.5 per cent said they could speak Irish (66,238).

(NOTE: Two figures regarding the percentage of daily Irish speakers outside the education system were published in the census data: 24 per cent and 35 per cent. We are currently trying to establish which is the correct figure.)

The breakdown of daily Irish speakers between the years 2006 and 2011 in specific Gaeltachts are as follows:

Cork County: 867 daily speakers to 982 daily speakers (+115)

Donegal County: 6,956 to 7,047 (+91)

Galway County: 9,654 to 10,085 (+431)

Galway City: 571 to 636 (+65)

Kerry County: 2,394 to 2,501 (+107)

Mayo County: 1,281 to 1,172 (-109)

Meath County: 336 to 31 (-22)

Waterford County: 456 to 438 (-18)

Here are the highlights of Census 2011>

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