Number of Irish speakers up by 7.1%

Fri, Mar 30, 2012, 01:00

THE CENSUS recorded a 7.1 per cent increase in the number of self-declared Irish speakers. Some 1.77 million people said they could speak Irish – 41.4 per cent of respondents.

More women than men answered “yes” when asked if they could speak Irish. Almost 45 per cent of women said they could speak Irish compared with almost 38 per cent of men. The Central Statistics Office noted that more women than men consistently identified themselves as being able to speak Irish.

Almost 31 per cent of 10-19-year- olds said they could not speak Irish. That increased to 36 per cent for 17-year-olds and 18-year-olds.

Of the 1.77 million who said they could speak Irish, just 1.8 per cent said they spoke it daily outside the education system.

This was an increase of 5,037 people since the previous census. A further 2.6 per cent said they spoke it weekly while 12.2 per cent spoke it within the education system.

Some 14.3 per cent said they spoke it less often – this was an increase of 27,139 and was the largest increase of all categories.

One in four said they never spoke Irish.

Of the 77,185 people who spoke Irish daily, outside the classroom, one in three lived in Gaeltacht areas.

The census recorded a 5.2 per cent increase in the Gaeltacht population. Some 96,628 people were living in Gaeltacht areas on census night 2011 compared with 91,862 in 2006.

Some 68.5 per cent of Gaeltacht dwellers said they could speak Irish and 24 per cent said they spoke it daily, outside the education system. This was an increase of 2.9 per cent on the number of daily Irish speakers in 2006. However, the number of Gaeltacht dwellers who said they spoke Irish less than weekly increased by 6.6 per cent.

The findings were welcomed by Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Dinny McGinley. He said the increase in the number of people able to speak Irish was a positive development in terms of the 20-year strategy for the Irish language.

“The increase in the number of daily Irish speakers in Gaeltacht areas is good news, particularly since the 20-year strategy has set a target of a 25 per cent increase in this area over its lifetime,” said Mr McGinley.