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North and South

An bhfuil Gaeilge agat? ... People like the idea of Irish - but they still aren't speaking it

What do you think of the Irish language? A major new study’s been carried out, and there are some interesting findings.

Updated at 10am

A NEW STUDY has shown that attitudes towards the Irish language are broadly positive.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that people actually make the effort to speak it.

In new statistics released by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) engagement with the language is examined across the island of Ireland.

Do people actually speak Irish? 

The new report notes that the 2011 Census recorded 41% of people in the Republic able to speak Irish, but did not delve into the frequency of use or fluency of users.

This new information is based on the 2013 Irish Language Survey, and shows 57% of respondents in the Republic and 17% of respondents in Northern Ireland claiming to have either basic or advanced proficiency in Irish.

Positivity towards the language has grown from 49% in 2001 to 67% in 2013 in the Republic, and from 29% up to 45% in the North over the same period.

Despite this improvement in attitude, Irish is still not spoken frequently outside of the classroom. In the South, 75% of those respondents with basic fluency said that their peer group did not speak Irish, with almost half of those with advanced fluency saying the same.

Two interesting findings were that Irish is more likely to be spoken by Catholics in Northern Ireland and by younger people in the Republic of Ireland.

Keeping it in the family 

A major factor on whether someone uses Irish in their daily life is whether or not it is spoken at home.

Out of those who took the survey, 56% in the Republic of Ireland and 45% in Northern Ireland who had grown up in a home where Irish was spoken had a continued interest into adulthood.


Speaking about the new results, the Conradh na Gaeilge (The Gaelic League), has called on governments north and south of the border to do more to promote the Irish language.

On this, Julian de Spáinn, the general secretary of of the organisation, said, “Conradh na Gaeilge hopes these statistics are a wake-up call to the Governments that demonstrates that neither research nor words without action will suffice, but rather they need to heed the research and immediately act on behalf of the language off the back of these figures.”

One of the recommendations made by the group is for one subject other than Irish to be taught through the language at primary level. 

Read: Irish speakers are angry that Enda Kenny doesn’t think the Gaeltacht is in crisis

Also: Lost in translation? This Irish language-tech startup is here to help

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