Stark warning for future of Irish in Gaeltacht areas

Report says Irish unlikely to be majority language in Gaeltacht areas in 10 years

Irish is unlikely to be the majority spoken language in Gaeltacht areas in ten years time, a major report commissioned by Údarás na Gaeltachta has warned.

The report, which is a reassessment of an earlier study published in 2007, warns that the spoken use of the language is declining at a faster pace than was previously believed.

Publication of the latest report was delayed for over a year following a dispute over the final recommendations between its authors and Údarás na Gaeltachta. The report without the authors recommendations was published on Friday.

Joint authors Prof Conchúr Ó Giollagáin and Martin Charlton have independently published their recommendations.


Prof Ó Giollagáin criticised the current approach to language planning in the Gaeltacht which he said lacks vision and leadership.

Calling for the establishment of an emergency commission of inquiry headed by the Taoiseach to address the accelerated decline of Irish, Prof Ó Giollagáin said: “The situation is so bad, the crisis is so pressing that a new strategy is needed and has to be implemented by those at the highest levels in the State.”

“The 20-year strategy for the Irish language is not strong enough to address the situation in the Gaeltacht.”

Daily speakers of Irish have fallen below a 67 per cent tipping point in 134 out of 155 electoral areas in the Gaeltacht.

Once the number of daily speakers falls below the 67 per cent tipping point the daily use of Irish in social settings becomes largely restricted to the older generations.

Under increasing social pressure to introduce English into their lives, successive generations have a more limited use for Irish.

Recommendations published by the authors say an independent commission of inquiry should be set up to address key points of policy implementation.

They include clarification of what vision the State has for Irish in Gaeltacht areas and an examination of the State’s apparent reluctance to actively implement its own policy as outlined in the 20-year Strategy for the Irish language.

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.