Most people say they can speak some Irish


A large majority of adults say they are able to speak Irish but do not want it to be revived as the main spoken language, according to the Ipsos MRBI 50th anniversary poll.

The survey shows that a total of 74 per cent say they are able to speak some Irish.

Most of these people (55 per cent), however, say they can speak very little of it. A further 16 per cent say they can speak the language “fairly well”, while just 4 per cent say they can speak it “very well”. A total of 24 per cent say they cannot speak Irish at all.

Ability to speak Irish varies with age and geography, according to the poll results. In general, younger people are more likely to be able to say they can speak the language well.

A total of 27 per cent of those aged 18-34 are able to speak the language either “very well” or “fairly well”. The proportion is lower among older age groups such as those aged 35-54 (16 per cent) and the over-55s (19 per cent).

Political parties

When the results on ability to speak the language are broken down by political party supporters, they show interesting differences. The proportion who can speak some Irish is lowest among Sinn Féin voters (75 per cent) and highest among Fine Gael voters (86 per cent).

The number of Irish-speaking Fianna Fáil supporters is 80 per cent, while the figure falls to 76 per cent among Labour supporters.

Not surprisingly, the highest concentration of Irish speakers is in Connacht/Ulster and Munster.

Students are more likely to be able to speak some Irish (85 per cent). The figures are lower for those who are working (80 per cent ) and not working (70 per cent).

People’s ability to understand spoken Irish on radio or television is comparable to their ability to speak it.

Again, a majority of people – 74 per cent – say they can understand Irish.

When this overall figure is broken down, most of these people say they can understand “some” Irish (56 per cent). A further 14 per cent say they understand “most” of the language, while just 4 per cent say they understand all of it.

In general, younger people and those from Connacht/ Ulster and Munster were more likely to be able to understand the language.

Most people are positively disposed towards Irish and would like to see it used more widely – but only to a point. A majority say they do not want Irish revived as the main spoken language of the country.

When asked whether they would like to see the language revived as the main tongue, 61 per cent said no and 27 per cent said yes, with the remaining 12 per cent of no opinion.

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