Irish language social network launched


US comedian and Irish language enthusiast Des Bishop has launched a social network site designed to encourage the use of Irish online.

Aimed at both learners and speakers of Irish, Abair Leat! is the first user generated content application of its kind and allows users to create a personal profile, add friends and exchange messages in Irish.

The core concept of is that at least 70 per cent of all posts and comments must be in Irish. It automatically calculates the percentage of Irish in each post and then invites the user to amend the submission if required.

A spellchecker is provided and an integrated version of Google translate allows users to translate any words they do not know.

Speaking at the official launch in Dublin this morning, Bishop said he sometimes receives a negative response when he posts comments in Irish online.

"I'm a big user of Facebook and Twitter. When you post in Irish...the people that speak Irish respond to you in Irish and then [others] make passive-aggressive comments [asking] why are you using this dead language," he said.

The comedian said the Irish language elicited a "funny" response from some people. "They get very upset," he said.

The website offers users who are interested in the language the opportunity to use it in a comfortable and safe environment, Bishop said.

"This is essentially about building a community of like-minded people chatting with each other," he said. "It's a very good place for Irish speakers to go, [to] feel comfortable. Learners can get a bit of confidence in speaking the language."

The site aims to have 5,000 active users by the end of March and up to 15,000 by the end of the year. It currently has about 1,200.

Updates are automatically posted to Facebook and Twitter and site developers are planning to introduce an integrated thesaurus and speech synthesiser in the coming months. A smartphone app is planned for later in the year.

Originally intended as an educational resource for students attending Coláiste Lurgan - one of the country's oldest Irish language summer colleges, the Abair Leat! concept was developed by company owner Mícheál Ó Foighil.

The website was built in association with US digital advertising agency Fantasy Interactive (FI) using 'Contain', FI's social media platform.

Founded by Dubliner David Martin in 1999, FI has developed into a global firm with offices in New York, San Francisco and Stockholm. FI counts companies such as Porsche, Ducati, Google and CBS News among its customers.