‘Urgent need’ for Government support for Irish speaking families, says report

Glór na nGael seeking funding of more than €1M for key services and data capture

There is an “urgent need” for immediate Government investment in services for Irish speaking families and an improvement in the collection of data on those using the language in the home, according to a new report.

The report on people raising their children in Irish outside of the Gaeltacht, commissioned by Glór na nGael, found Irish-speaking families in every county but said the absence of a singular source of accurate data hampered research.

The study was focused on families with children aged three to 18 and Glór na nGael estimated that there were some 7,000 Irish speaking families, including some 16,000 children, in this cohort in the 32 counties.

A quarter of the families were located in Gaeltacht areas with another quarter in the greater Dublin area (1,566 families). Concentrations were also identified in counties that have Gaeltacht areas, but where the families in question live outside the Gaeltacht.

Cork city and county had 502 families that speak Irish and live outside Gaeltacht areas, Mayo had 104, Co Meath had 196 while Co Kerry had 102 and Donegal had 194.

“It is recognised that learning the language as the home language is the most important planning factor in ensuring the language’s health for future generations,” said Glór na nGael’s Marcas Mac Ruairí.

Funding

The group, which provides support for language planning and promotion in community and family settings, is seeking funding of more than €1 million for six recommendations it says would help address shortcomings in key services and data capture.

"Currently, limited investment is made annually in services and in public campaigns to encourage families to speak Irish. There is a clear need to increase this investment and for regular awareness campaigns," said Mr Mac Ruairí.

Should funding issues not be addressed, efforts to grow the number of Irish speaking families “will not achieve their full potential,” he added.

A €400,000 national support fund to help language communities provide family services is among the measures called for by the group. A study into the viability of an Irish language childcare centre in Dublin along with an annual public awareness campaign aimed at encouraging young couples to make Irish their language of choice in the home are also listed recommended.

Glór na nGael has also said more accurate data should be gathered by the Central Statistics Office and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency on the numbers and location of Irish-speaking families. Mr Mac Ruairí said what was currently available "is sketchy and weak".

“The conclusion from the research is clear that there needs to be a more strategic and comprehensive approach to gathering data on the use of Irish in the home. Without clear and accurate data, the State’s efforts to support Irish speaking families will fall short,” he said.

Another recommendation is that researchers be appointed to conduct continuous studies on the linguistic habits of families raising their children in Irish.

Titled Líon agus Lonnaíocht na dTeaghlach atá ag Tógáil Clainne le Gaeilge Lasmuigh den Ghaeltacht, the research was conducted by Roinn na Gaeilge, Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh.