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Figures published yesterday, 13 January show that the equivalent of nearly two million people on the island of Ireland are confident in their ability to understand or to speak Irish.

The Kantar 2020 survey was conducted to gain an insight into public attitudes towards the Irish language and related matters. In total over a thousand people took a questionnaire in the north and a further thousand people in the south and a series of focus groups were organised afterwards on identified themes.

Gaeláras Mhic Ardghail in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Gaeláras Mhic Ardghail, the Irish Language hub in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Results

  • 28% of people in the south and 12% of people in the north said that they are confident in their ability to speak Irish
  • 35% of people in the south and 15% of people in the north said they are confident in their ability to understand Irish
  • 67% in the south and 55% in the north agreed that the Irish language is a unique resource that can have a positive impact on the development of tourism on this island
  • 59% in the south agreed that an Irish language radio station aimed at young people & available on FM should be funded through the current TV license fee and 51% agreed that state support should be available for migrants who are living in Ireland to learn Irish
  • 60% in the north agreed that core subjects at GCSE level should include languages, with the result that all students would study one language other than English at GCSE level

Dr Niall Comer, President of Conradh na Gaeilge said “A Kantar survey published today as part of Conradh na Gaeilge's annual major research series called Céard É an Scéal has shown that the equivalent of over 1.5 million people are confident in their ability to speak Irish and almost 2 million are confident in their ability to understand the Irish language on the island of Ireland. Our challenge is to provide opportunities for the general public to use their Irish more regularly.”

No Surprise

Dr Comer added "It comes as no surprise that we are seeing an upward trend in people with an increased understanding and confidence in speaking the Irish language. This revival has been well underway now for over 50 years and has developed mostly in spite of state support whilst campaigns for equality and language rights progressed. There is now a burgeoning Irish speaking community across the north, underpinned by a flourishing Irish medium education sector and supported by a strong Irish language community movement and local branches of Conradh na Gaeilge. Alongside the longstanding tradition of language learners immersing themselves in the language in the Gaeltacht areas, the language has made huge strides through local officers pioneering the Irish language in the Community Scheme; which has had a transformational impact in local areas creating regular opportunities for people to learn, see and use the Irish language in their daily lives."

Legislation disappointment

Conchúr Ó Muadaigh, Advocacy Manager, Conradh na Gaeilge, has expressed disappointment that Irish Language committments in the 'New Decade New Approach' document still haven's been implemented "We are disappointed, however, that one year on from the New Decade New Approach agreement the Irish language commitments in that deal have yet to be implemented. The Irish language bill, published alongside the agreement, was arguably the cornerstone component of the entire package. That legislation and the accompanying strategy will ensure the state plays it’s part in facilitating the needs of the ever-growing Irish language community. Conradh na Gaeilge calls on the Executive, and on the Irish and British Governments, who co-wrote the agreement, to implement the outstanding legislation and strategy as soon as possible."

It's a year since the Executive was re-established through the New Decade New Approach agreement in January 2020. In that agreement, Irish language legislation was promised alongside an Irish language development strategy. The legislation included provisions to create an Office for an Irish Language Commissioner, where ‘best practice standards’ would be developed to ensure services through Government Departments and public bodies. As one year passes, neither the legislation nor the strategy have been implemented; despide the agreement committing to implementing the legislation within 100 days and implementing the strategy within 6 months.

This is the sixth year of the Céard é an Scéal? research series compiled by Conradh na Gaeilge with the support of funding from Foras na Gaeilge. The research is aimed at gaining a better understanding of the views and opinions of the Irish public on various issues relating to the Irish language.

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