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Tuesday 17 October 2017

Fewer speak Irish in Gaeltacht

BRIAN McDONALD

MORE than 3pc of adults speak Irish on a daily basis, according to latest census figures. However, less than half of adults in Connemara speak the language every day, confirming anecdotal evidence that English is now the dominant language in many Gaeltacht areas.

MORE than 3pc of adults speak Irish on a daily basis, according to latest census figures. However, less than half of adults in Connemara speak the language every day, confirming anecdotal evidence that English is now the dominant language in many Gaeltacht areas.

The figures are revealed in the Irish language magazine Cuisle which also publishes that more pre-school children are speaking Irish every day (4.5pc) than adults.

The analysis was carried out by Donncha O hEallaithe, of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and is based on figures for the 1996 census. Up to now, census returns dealing with Irish have been regarded with scepticism, as they included children whose only exposure to the language was in the classroom. This allowed some groups to claim that more than one million people spoke Irish.

However, for the 1996 census, for the first time, respondents were asked how often they spoke Irish, allowing for a more accurate picture. The results show the language in a state of flux, with gains in some areas and a marked decline in others.

Throughout the State, 71,000 adults said they spoke Irish daily. Of these, almost 21,000 live in the Gaeltacht, with just over 70pc of daily Irish speakers now outside Gaeltacht areas.

More than 1.4 million (43pc of the population over three years old) claim the ability to speak Irish. But almost two-thirds never speak the language or speak it less frequently than once a week. Only 36.5pc of the adult population in Gaeltacht areas say they speak Irish on a daily basis.

Not surprisingly, more people say they speak Irish in Galway city that in any other Irish city. Just over 11pc of Galway city respondents (about 6,000) said they spoke the language on a daily basis. This compares to 9.1pc for Limerick, 8.8pc for Cork and 5.4pc of Dublin's population.

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