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na meáin shóisialta

Like, follow, share: the social media stars making Irish shine

Young Irish speakers are engaging a whole new audience with the language online.

IF YOU KNOW a Gaeilgeoir you probably know that there are 2.3 million people learning Irish on Duolingo. The chances you’re one of them is high.

Far from losing its voice in the globalised environment of the internet, the Irish language has received a powerful boost from its use online, particularly by younger generations.

In particular, the use of Irish on social media has grown in tandem with the general growth in these platforms to promote branding, both personal and business, for educational purposes, networking and connecting with like-minded users. It is even bridging the gap between the more traditional first exposure to the language for most young Irish people – as a mandatory subject in schools and the more modern way to pick up useful phrases and vocab; online learning.

Typing the term ‘muinteoir’ into Instagram will draw a long list of, often very popular pages, with good engagement and useful content for people looking to improve their Irish online. The most well-known of these is @muinteoirmeg, a secondary school teacher with over 20,000 followers.

For Meg, the benefits of learning Irish on social media are not only that “you’re learning it in a really informal way,” but that “you can very much narrow it down to what you’re actually interested in.”

Someone trying to learn Irish can improve by engaging with a wide variety of accounts, not only ones like @muinteoirmeg’s or @gaeilge_bheo.

“Obviously there’s so many accounts online now. You can find accounts that focus on grammar, you can find accounts that focus on only fashion, there’s Irish accounts like @kerrycowboy who focuses on farming; it’s almost like there’s an Irish account for every interest out there,” says Meg.

  • Séaghan Ó Suilleabháin, aka @kerrycowboy, is one of our panellists at a live conversation about the Irish language, being held entirely as Gaeilge, in Dingle, Co Kerry tomorrow evening>

Those who seek out Irish online don’t only do so as a tool for education. There is a large cohort of people who have audiences already fluent in Irish who post on social media through Irish simply because they want to.

Caoimhe Ní Chathail of @caoimhechats is one of these. A freelance presenter, producer and journalist, she thinks that “young people are looking for people who are living contemporary lives such as themselves but are doing so through the Irish language, and social media is definitely a way of inserting extra Irish into your daily life”. 

For ‘influencers’ like Ní Chathail and her contemporaries, including TG4 presenter Síomha Ní Ruairc, @siomhaniruairc, their use of Irish online is just an expression of their lived reality. “It’s important for me to use Irish on social media because that is who I am,” she explains. “Irish is such a huge part of me and my identity and how I interact with the world, if I’m to be my true self, then my social media also needs to be in Irish.”

Ní Chathail doesn’t only boast of followings from seasoned Gaeilgoirí however, “young people look for accounts that use Irish because it’s somewhat fashionable at the moment to learn Irish, which is great, it’s part of the revival of a language that is so contemporary and modern.”  

Capitalising on this moment in time are a large number of businesses running their operations through Irish with highly engaging community pages.

TG Lurgan / YouTube

Catapulted into the mainstream due to a viral cover of ‘Wake Me Up’, helped by Avicii sharing their video on Facebook, Coláiste Lurgan’s online presence is notable. Like other Irish college pages such as @spleodarsamhraidh and @colaistechamuis, their content acts both as a space to advertise their summer camps and as a platform for their work and their community. On YouTube, Lurgan have over 100,000 subscribers and upload music videos of popular songs translated into Irish for their audience to huge acclaim.

This dual purpose of advertisement and content creation for the very sake of creation is a theme among so many businesses using the Irish language online. An Siopa Leabhar, an Irish language bookshop, enjoys a following of over 4,000 on Instagram (@ansiopaleabhar) and posts a wide variety of content, from showcasing new deals on books to excerpts of their books and phrases for prospective non-fluent book-buyers.

“I think Irish language content is getting much more popular than it ever was”, says drag queen Kitty Ní Houlihán who has a significant following on TikTok.

“Especially now with TikTok and Instagram and meme pages they breed a whole new life into the language because you have people who speak the language fluently making memes for other people who speak the language fluently.” 

Meme page admin of @gaylgeoiri on Instagram, Cian Ó Gríofa agrees but says that “it’s not really that there has been a sudden surge in the appetite,” it’s that “there’s finally a huge supply to meet the demand”. 

Pages like Kitty’s and Ó Gríofa’s appeal to a large audience yet have a particular popularity within the LGBTQ community. Ó Gríofa explains this as part of “a larger culture of acceptance within the irish language community”, saying he, like “a lot of queer people in the irish language realm”, was able to explore his sexual identity in the Irish community much easier and that the online space only makes that easier for young Irish speakers.

Siobhán, the admin of large Irish language content page @gaeilgevibes, notes how there really is a plethora of content through Irish available online to anyone who wants to access it, “if you type the word Gaeilge in on Instagram or TikTok you’ll be occupied for hours.”

Pages like @gaeilgevibes, TG4’s own @bloc_tg4, @gaeltachtx and @popupgaeltacht can host anything on their pages, from memes to long-form video journalism pieces, posts organising events, sketch comedy videos, learning resources and infographics under one account tag. There are even those who wish to create spaces independent from the American tech oligopoly like the Gaelgoer app and the already successful

Political activism through Irish is popular online, not only as ports of the traditional kind such as @andreamdearg’s Instagram page which posts content signalling the number of days the organisation has been waiting for an Irish Language Act in Northern Ireland, but also as infographic accounts for modern online social justice politics such as @glowingwithgaeilge which has over 15,000 followers on Instagram and also posts Irish text-based visual art.

As a young person online looking for Irish language spaces, there is a lot to choose from, marking a notable shift in the way Irish has been perceived as something to groan at in school or grow up with at home; now it’s something to like, follow and share through. 

“Even though it’s such an important part of our history, there’s definitely been a shift in the attitudes towards the language, as it’s been constantly being modernised” says Ó Gríofa. “It just makes me happy that there is such a visible and progressive and positive shift in the right direction for the Irish language.”

This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work is the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.

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