CSO baby names list features síneadh fada for first time

State’s statistical agency did not recognise names with fadas in annual listings

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) will pass a significant milestone on Thursday morning as it becomes the latest State agency to recognise the síneadh fada when it publishes its popular baby names list.

The annual publication is based on the analysis of births registered with the State in a particular calendar year and since it was first published in 1998 the correct spelling of Irish names that include the síneadh fada has never been included.

According to CSO data, the name Sean has featured in the top 5 boys’ names every year since 1998 but the statistics do not show whether the name in question refers to Sean or Seán.

"Any changes going forward would cause a break in the series," the CSO told The Irish Times last March.


The decision to reverse the practice of not recognising the fada was taken following a recommendation by the State statistician.

The CSO said feedback was received that “highlighted the dissatisfaction of some Irish speakers that wanted fadas included in the data”

The agency said the change would treat síneadh fada “as significant for the purposes of name differentiation” and added that it “would confirm the position that the fada matters.”

The failure by public bodies to recognise the correct spelling of citizens’ names and addresses makes up a sizeable portion of complaints made to the Coimisinéir Teanga each year.

The síneadh fada is a central feature of Irish as it confers meaning and pronunciation upon words. It is also a strong determinant of identity as many Irish forenames feature the mark.

Activists say the failure by State agencies to recognise the correct spelling of Irish names highlights the structural and cultural inequalities faced by speakers of the language when interacting with State institutions.

The decision to reverse the practice of not recognising the síneadh fada was welcomed this month by the Coimisinéir Teanga, Rónán Ó Domhnaill.

The coimisinéir said it highlighted the need for the Government to amend the Official Languages Bill “in order to place a responsibility upon public bodies to facilitate the síneadh fada”.

While the baby names list will include the síneadh fada, an online app which allows users to research the instances of name usage going back to 1964 will not be updated in time for this morning’s publication. The CSO confirmed that the interactive app will cater for names that include the síneadh fada but said it will require more time to update the latest data set.

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Iriseoir agus Eagarthóir Gaeilge An Irish Times. Éanna Ó Caollaí is The Irish Times' Irish Language Editor, editor of The Irish Times Student Hub, and Education Supplements editor.