Conchur O Giollagain: Why Irish language may soon be a Celtic myth
THE Irish language as a communal, collective identity is on its last legs. This was the principal finding of the 2007 Comprehensive Linguistic Study of the Use of Irish in the Gaeltacht. This study was an integral part of a 10-year-long research and consultative process, which regrettably has come to a conclusion of sorts with the revised Gaeltacht Act.
Irish is collapsing in the gaeltacht for two main reasons: a strong decline in the proportion of young, home speakers of Irish; and, secondly, inadequate communal and educational supports to enable even the home speakers to acquire a native-like ability and to function with social ease through Irish in their own peer groups.
Among the central recommendations of the study were: to give statutory effect to designated language-planning initiatives for communities with varying language vitalities, priority being afforded to the stronger areas, so as to counteract their slide below the viability threshold of 70pc of active Irish speakers in a given district; a revamped and attractive support scheme for Irish-speaking families; a bespoke gaeltacht educational system and curriculum; Irish-language socialisation strategies for educational and youth organisations; holistically integrated planning across all domains -- language, education, socio-economic; and, finally, the establishment of a rural district council for gaeltacht districts in the stronger areas.