Gaeltacht: Just 23% of families raising their children with Irish

Only two areas remain where majority of children continue to speak Irish outside school

Research published today shows that 16 per cent of children under the age of 18 living in Gaeltacht areas speak Irish on a daily basis outside of school.

Research published today shows that 16 per cent of children under the age of 18 living in Gaeltacht areas speak Irish on a daily basis outside of school.

 

Just 23 per cent of families located in the Gaeltacht are raising their children with Irish, according to an in-depth study of Gaeltacht language planning areas.

The research gives the most detailed indication yet of the number of families in Gaeltacht areas whose main or common home-language is Irish. The research shows that 2,889 families out of a total of 12,586 families with children of school-going age located in Gaeltacht areas are now raising their children with Irish.

“We have seen many reports in recent years highlighting the crisis faced by the Irish language in the Gaeltacht and unfortunately, this is another,” the study’s authors say in the report.

The Government-funded report was commissioned by Tuismitheoirí na Gaeltachta, an organisation providing practical supports to Gaeltacht families raising their children through Irish. It was carried out by a team of researchers from Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, led by Dr Neasa Ní Chuaig.

The Gaeltacht is divided into 26 Gaeltacht language planning areas (LPTs) to facilitate policy implementation tailored according to local needs. Using 2016 census data from these areas, researchers were able to analyse the degree of Irish spoken in homes across the LPTs.

The results show that 16.2 per cent of children under the age of 18 in Gaeltacht areas speak Irish on a daily basis outside of school. That amounts to 4,090 of a total of 25,207 children (aged 0-18) living in the Gaeltacht.

Low rate

Researchers also found significant variations between planning areas. Two LPTs, An Cheathrú Rua and Ceantar na nOileán in Co Galway, were the only LPTs where more than 50 per cent of children continue to speak Irish outside of the school setting.

All LPTs in Munster recorded a low rate, under 30 per cent, of children speaking Irish outside of school, while in the Co Meath Gaeltacht, just 15 per cent of children spoke Irish outside of school.

Tuismitheoirí na Gaeltachta’s Sorcha Ní Chéilleachair said the research findings would help future language planning in the Gaeltacht.

“We have seen the efforts that families are making on the ground, which gives us great hope. Rather than being pessimistic we would like to support these families and to get the State to support them as well,” she said.

 

Dr Ní Chuaig said the results should encourage a more “honest debate” about the situation facing families who wish to raise their children with Irish in the Gaeltacht.

“You could be negative about the numbers, but you could also say that we now understand where these families are located and how many of them are there.”