93% Pro-Irish Language

New research finds that that 93% of the population (in 26 Counties) are pro-Irish Language.The report found that 40% are in favour of ‘revival’, 53% wanted ‘preservation’ according to the reasearch.

6.7% wanted the language ‘discarded’. Readers of say the Irish Independent may be shocked at that low number but I think we should take it that many of the commentators who hold very negatitive views towards the language do not have the support they claim, they do not speak for ‘the people of Ireland’.

The report also found positive attitutes towards the language from ‘foriegn nationals’.

The report had concerns with the treatment of Irish in the education system.

I myself believe that an education throught Irish should be a constitutional right, thirty percent of the population have indicated a preference for IME, and that is what they should have, it is not good enough to provide for IME only after English medium is secured, in too many of our remaining Gaeltachtaí are native speaking children denied an education through Irish as they are a minority in a school or more shockingly, to accomadate an English speaking minority.

It is not permitted to set up a Gaelscoil in the ‘Gaeltacht’ by the way.

Having said that, one should never put all your eggs in one basket and I feel that it is true to say that the rise of the Gaelscoil movement has seen a paralell decline in Irish in the English medium sector, something which needs to be addressed.

I have seen the language taught in English medium primary schools in the North and I have to say I was inspired but the quality, a number of schools I could only describe as bilingual, somewhere between a Gaelscoil and full English medium.

If that quality could be replicating in the South, then the fortunes of the Irish language would be truely transformed.

  • alan56

    Is this surprising? People have a warm cultural fondness for the language, of course. However to translate that to saying that a similar percentage want huge spending or IME for all would be disingenuous.

  • TravellingMan

    I wonder why ‘research’ was needed to come up with that result..???? More important than 93% supporting the lingo, how many actually use it? How often is it used in the Dail? The ROI must be one of the few countries in the world that actually use their ‘second’ language for the affairs of state and English is in fact the main language that everyone can speak and write.
    Whilst it is nice to retain and promote native languages, try [as someone did for a tv programme] driving around the length and breadth of the Republic only using Irish and see how you get on. Blank looks and shaking heads would be the response from the majority of the natives, in my humble opinion.

  • dm

    An interesting result, however as has been said such a survey would benefit from the ‘ease’ factor of simply expressing support in a survey for something. If the taxpayers of the ROI are in favour then why not roll out more Irish-medium education, it’s probably the best way of stimulating a flourish in the language.

    Having said that I don’t know a single one of my friends who studied Irish at school who would be capable of using it conversationally today,indeed some of them even struggle with the cúpla focal that I know. Obviously either third-level study or continuous use is required to make it stick; students of french or spanish can spend time in that country and immerse themselves in the language, can the same be said of the gaeltacht here?

  • Travelling Man is right to focus on the usage of Irish. While 93% support the revival or preservation of Irish, 23% in the same survey say they use Irish regularly. That’s not an insignificant amount in itself and shouldn’t be discarded easily – but there’s a huge gap there – 70% – which needs to be bridged between support and usage. That’s a huge challenge and the agency charged with bridging the gap – Foras na Gaeilge – is patently not up to that challenge.

    I’m inclined to the view expressed in the Irish Times today in another context:
    “We need a realignment of politics in Ireland – we need democratic choices that mean something to contemporary society. We need a sense of right and wrong. We need a whole new political ethic premised on values-based leadership.

    We need to engage individuals who have little interest in power as such, who have a commitment as well as a widely acknowledged expertise that is capable of restoring trust, confidence and a sense of direction.”

    The quote is from Professor Ray Kinsella and he was talking about banking and politics. It applies equally in Irish.

    If the truth be told, I’m slightly disappointed by the figures released in the above mentioned survey. The last equivalent survey was conducted in 1988 and the result then had 94.5% in favour of Irish (either revival or preservation) and only 5.6% wanted the language to be discarded. In the intervening period TG4 was established and that should have been a galvanising factor for Irish and should have resulted, in my opinion, in an increase and improvement of the support for Irish. This hasn’t happened.

    I think that what has to be borne in mind that the intervening period saw a massive explosion in the development of the media as the premier influencing force in the world. The advent of 24/7 media, the internet etc have occurred. And TG4, for all the good it does, is only a drop in the ocean in comparison to that. What I feel is needed is a quantum leap in the quantity and quality and range of the provision of irish material in the media. The last twenty years has also been a period of massive growth in Gaelscoileanna, north and south, and the Gaeltacht’s schools where the schools are supposedly Gaelscoileanna by default. The time has come now to realise that when these people leave school they need opportunities to use Irish – be it reading, writing, speaking, listening etc – and that’s in the media.

  • The idea of all-Irish education across the board came up in the comments section here. Given the dismal linguistic ability of most Irish people it is certainly the way to go but unfortunately too many people seem concerned with the idea of being an English speaking country and think that being taught in Irish means that you won’t be able to speak English.

  • An fhirinne gharbh

    I agree that there’s a mismatch between these figures and the numbers of people who use Irish on a regular basis. Even so they aren’t without significance. The Irish language has been vilified by the likes of the Indo (the ever-reliable Myers), the Irish Times (some woefully researched pieces by Sarah Carey)and the mainstream media for years. Funding for Irish has been blamed for everything from overcrowded hospitals to Ireland’s failure to meet overseas aid targets. Irish speakers are variously painted as snobs, fanatics, romantics, Provos, racists, careerists, ultra-Conservatives and bearded wierdos.

    And yet the vast majority of people see it as something of value. Contrast this to the well-rehearsed ‘everyone knows that Irish is rubbish’ argument so beloved of commentators who take their own prejudices for public opinion.

  • Conchuír Ó Fearaín

    As an Irish speaker myself, although not fluent(AS Level currently) I am suprised at this figure. However, I would be even more surprised if there was any sorty of similar figure in the North, although I am proud that the language is still somewhat alive on the island.

  • fin

    Concubhar, possibly worth noting that only 85% surveyed were Irish born in this survey, in 1988 it was probably 100% Irish born or at least Irish descent.

    Considering the disgraceful kicking the language gets from certain quarters it’s hlding up well

  • DC

    Preserve us from one where everywhere and everybody is identical.

  • Greenflag

    When it comes to the daily usage of the Irish language simple observation as Travelling man puts it above should tell us that probably 98% of Irish people (in ROI anyway )are not prepared to put their mouth to where their tax money is going in this area . We are prepared to pay lip service to the language in the main but it’s as a sort of cultural artifact and it’s seen as an area of real interest for a small part of the population .

    I enjoy Irish music and the language up to a point . But I know that when I have to deal with the rest of the world , a neccessity in this day and age English is more useful .

    As to the ‘nation ‘ becoming bilingual or trilingual such as the Dutch with English and German as well as their own ‘disease of the throat ‘;) I don’t see the Irish as doing much more than most english speaking peoples i.e in taking the easy way out and passing the buck on linguistic flexibility to those countries who are geographically challenged by having having neighbours on seversal sides all speaking different languages as say with the Dutch or Belgians or Swiss .

  • Ray

    These surveys are all good and well, but at some point they become efftectively meaningless. Whether there is 93% favorable rating to Irish or a 193% favorable rating what does it actually mean when the actions and defacto policy of the Department of Education in NI has been to shut down as many gaelscoileanna as possible and stop any new schools from opening over the past half-dosen years?
    Have any of these so-called education specialists within the Department and at university level ever dared consider the positive impact of native language on crime, suicides, depression, lack of self confidence, teenage pregnacies, anti-social behaviour, and other social maladies?
    Has anyone tried to connect the dots between the ability to learn different languages with success in problem solving, creativity, and entrepreneurship?
    Who dares to thing outside-the-box and perhaps save the world in the process?

  • Nic

    Oh dear. Make a sentence with the words stick, end and wrong in it.
    Actually, I’m surprised that as many as 7% would openly admit to wanting to completely discard the language, and I’m a daily Irish Independent reader and all.
    Where it’s due: policy since the foundation of the State has succeeded in preventing the death of the language and that is no mean feat in itself, given the pressures.
    Fact is, the Gaeltachts are shrinking and dying regardless.
    Fact is, the most Irish is now spoken in Dublin.
    Which means that policy has not succeeded where or in the way it was intended. Ye wha?
    Actually it should be bleeding obvious, but pipe dreamers don’t deal in the bleeding obvious so let’s help them along.
    In Ireland in my generation, if you wanted a decent life, you had to have Irish. The much maligned education system that birthed the tiger made it compulsory in the Leaving and the civil service or semi state or university wouldn’t take you without it.
    These policies made Irish relevant and therefore kept it alive.
    The relative boom in Gaelscoileanna recently has more to do with a combination of better classroom sizes, social problems in the public schools (drugs and crime) and a generally unacknowledged low-burn xenophobia (too many furreners in our schools nowadays), than with any real light of day commitment to the language.
    Gaeltacht based policies like startup grants for industries are patronizing and a scam at best that line a few connected pockets for a while but in fact accelerate the decline of the grass roots use of the language in those areas.


  • skibbereen eagle

    On a little tangent, we have an exchange student from Germany staying with the family and one of the first things she wanted to know was what did Irish sound like and could we speak it. I am reasonably fluent and gave a demonstration. she was also taken with examples of the old Gaelic script in use before ‘An Clo Romanach’

  • Ray

    Skibbereen eagle,
    The Old Gaelic Script needs to be brought back.
    It is artwork in practise.

  • Glencoppagagh

    “the positive impact of native language on crime, suicides, depression, lack of self confidence, teenage pregnacies, anti-social behaviour, and other social maladies”
    In that case, we’d better make it compulsory without delay but in the meantime could you come up with a bit of evidence, just in case anybody queries it, like.

    “a generally unacknowledged low-burn xenophobia”
    Now that sounds like a fairly plausible explanation for the recent growth in Irish language education. Not one that’s likely to be investigated very closely, however

  • RG Cuan

    Ní fiú freagra a thabhairt ar Glencoppagagh, tá sé anseo le cac a thosnú.

    More Irish is being spoken now that at any other time since the Famine. Now that’s progress.

    Ar aghaidh linn.

  • Ray

    In the United States on Native American Indian reservations where the Native Indian language was in major cases almost wiped out by English, and where there were horrendous alcohol, drug, suicide, and other social issues, and when they reintroduced their own native language into the schools, over a period of years the social issues were dramatically reduced.
    We do not need to make Irish compulsory unlike English which has been made compulsory with the attendant negative social and economic results.

  • Dewi

    Well worth a read The Irish language in county Down.

  • 0b101010

    The report? Primarily, and more complete, in English. The news story about the report? English. The blog post linking to the story about the report? English. Comments on the blog post linking to the story about the report? Almost entirely in English.


    I enjoy the Irish language, but I’ll oppose any attempt to legislate for it and I’ll oppose any attempt to tax me for something others can also learn on their own dime if they want it so much.

  • Feirsteach

    “I enjoy the Irish language, but I’ll oppose any attempt to legislate for it and I’ll oppose any attempt to tax me for something others can also learn on their own dime if they want it so much.
    Posted by 0b101010 on Apr 24, 2009 @ 05:19 AM”
    Duine den 6.8%?

  • RG Cuan


    We’re writing in English here for the benefit of people like you, you eejit.

    The report is also available in Irish, and if you want some debate and coverage of the report in Irish just check out Nuacht24, Foinse, iGaeilge, Gaelport.com and many other blogs and news sites throughout the net.

    If you wanted to listen or watch coverage of the report as Gaeilge you could have watched TG4 on Tuesday, or listened to RTÉ RnaG, BBC Raidió Uladh, Raidió Fáilte, Raidió na Life…


    Sílim go bhfuil an ceart agat!

  • Piobaire Breac

    The problem with this survey is that although the minister was happy to slap that backs of those who produced it. The Irish government, Foras na Gaeilge and indeed all the political parties in the north still only, at best, give lip service to Irish language schools. The very schools which are being hailed as saving the language and are responsible for its growth….
    Yip! they are great and are numbers growing, but still theses schools are not big enough to produce as many votes as the English language schools mums and dads. So with elections always looming our politicians, even in the southern gov, which has a 20 year plan for the language, continue NOT to support something that actually works.

  • George

    “The relative boom in Gaelscoileanna recently has more to do with a combination of better classroom sizes, social problems in the public schools (drugs and crime) and a generally unacknowledged low-burn xenophobia (too many furreners in our schools nowadays), than with any real light of day commitment to the language.”

    More than half of Gaelscoileanna are in temporary accommodation so it’s not exactly nirvana to send your child to one.

    As for the xenophobia, Gaelscoileanna in Dublin actively canvass for immigrant children, are also in working class areas and are non-fee paying so don’t really fit the bill of low-burn xenophobic.

    Maybe some parents are but would you call all those parents who send their middle class children to fee-paying schools as low-burn xenophobic simply because the percentage of non-Irish is lower there than in national schools and because they now immigrant children can’t afford to go?

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    This 93% pro is disneyland stuff, like the same folk who go on about a ‘United Ireland.’ Ah sure feck a United Ireland, most truely say, deep down….. but come on Man United.

    And feck the old language too, they really and truely say, deep down….eh? Coz if folk really cared they’d be all able to speak it. Lamenting bout the old lost language rather than learning and using it, is just typical of dear old Paddy. Most folk in Europe seem to manage to speak a number of languages as well as their own native tongue, but not poor old Paddy.

    So let’s have English all the way then. Just admit it, that it is now our national language. Ah sure ain’t we all vitually English today I suppose,…. dear old gaelic Ireland is long dead and gone. Those former English rulers and settlers did a marvellous job and made a wonderful and lasting irreversible impression………. mope, mope!

    So come on now, don’t be the closet Brits anymore, Come out…and fullfil that wish, of being out and out Eng-a-lish…….and let’s have more pleeze of all what’s great, like the kings and queens of England such as Henry the VIII, Contemporary culture vultures lot’s to see on the ever impressionable ZZZZZZzzzzzzzombie TV… ah, the X Factor, quiz shows and Britain’s Got Talent, lovable presenters like Piers Morgan and Chris Tarrent, oh and campy old Simon Cowell, remember the rivers of blood Enoch Powell, Ant & Dec, Posh & Becks, Man Utd, Cup o’ Tea, The Premiereship, The Royal Family, The Empire, Kevin Myers, M&S, S&M, Tesco’s (what a profit) and Debenham’s, real ale, The Sun, The Telegraph, The Observer, The Mail, The Grand National and Wimbledon, Let’s all cheer for England – come on my son….Eastenders, Coronation Street, God Save the Queen, Rule Britannia and the Union, sure the republic may as well be part of the UK….today, if ye look at the telly and the likes of TV3, or reading the daily Oirish newspapers while having the full English breakfast…. the fact of the matter is the English language is spoken nationally in Ireland … alroy mate!….and sadly most folk in Ireland today don’t really care!

  • picador

    Great bit of reverse psychology there, Greagoir. You painted a portrait of a vile and soulless place.

  • Greagoir,
    Much of what you say there is true but of course there are things like the GAA, the Irish language movement and traditional music which redress the balance somewhat.
    It is striking to compare the ROI to Wales and ask which has a less authentic culture. Language really is central and the relative strength of Welsh would make you wonder.

  • skibbereen eagle

    The piece on the Irish of County Down is excellent is there anything comparable for other counties

  • Gael gan Náire

    I put some Rathlin phrases and info up if you are interested.


  • 0b101010

    Coz if folk really cared they’d be all able to speak it. Lamenting bout the old lost language rather than learning and using it, is just typical

    I figure you’re being facetious, but that’s the hard truth.

  • picador

    Yep, he’s hit the nail on the head.

  • Danny

    The percentage of the population in the Republic who are fluent or near fluent is probably in the 5-10% range. The percentage who actually speak it daily (habitually) *OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL* is actually 2%, according to census data.

    I’m not convinced that close to 25% of residents there speak Irish on a ‘regular basis’.

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    “Much of what you say there is true but of course there are things like the GAA, the Irish language movement and traditional music which redress the balance somewhat.”

    Indeed, and we have to be very thankful, else we’d be totally swamped with the anglocentric culture of these islands. But have such aspects of our identity the diddly iddle music, etc…become mere stereotypical tokens today?

    “I figure you’re being facetious, but that’s the hard truth.”

    Nope, it’s holding a mirror up to see the true reflection of Irish society.

    A spoken language that is unique and native is always the backbone of a society, culture. It is the core of identity.
    Oh on many, many an occasion I’ve witnessed tourists (all speaking their own unique lingo too) really rather amused at English speaking Paddy in the pub glued to the box shouting for Man Utd or Chelsea etc…, or watching the live English horse racing on C4 or the latest on Sky news with his daily English tabloid in hand, pint of lager in the other, debating if Gerrard will be playing. With the futile token touristy gaelic words bedecked about the place like ‘Failte’ or ‘ceol, caint agus craic’ etc…

    Sadly, the majority of Irish folk just don’t realise the shallowness of it all in their deep ZZZZzzzombie like state. And must mention the other ZZZZzzzombie half wits, the hardmen bully boy republican types who resort to violent means, the anglophobes who cant accept the fact that the problem really lies with the complacent Irish people, and not our neighbours.

  • Greagoir,
    What you are saying is sadly all too true and that is one of the main reasons I won’t go back to live in Ireland any time soon myself. I often wonder if some kind of Baile Nua concept for the Irish speakers outside the Gaeltacht might work. There is an active minority involved in things like Nos magazine and Radio na Life but these things remain minority pursuits.
    Ultimately I think that the 26 county state has had more failures than successes in making an Irish state the equal of say Denmark or Finland. Ironically the current pluralist UK may lead to a 6 county stste where Irish culture can be protected and grow. Personally I would love an Irish ‘ ‘Heimatland’ for my children to go back to (like an Israel or even how Poland functions for the Polonia diaspora).

  • picador


    Stand for election and I will vote for you.

  • Reader

    picador: Greagoir, Stand for election and I will vote for you.
    An honest politician would be a useful novelty. But what’s the plan?

  • Bearla Gan Naire

    There’s a fairly large sign in very basic English warning drivers to Slow Down Now on the old Derry road, travelling south towards Slane.

    Some wee eejits have stuck an “As Gaeilge Anois” sticker on it.

    By the time any driver had assimilated the message in both national languages said driver would be over the brae and crashed.

  • Piobaire Breac

    Bearla gan naire,

    How do all the multilinguistic nations cope. You under-estimate your ability man. Well at least you underestimate the rest of us.

    I am not ashamed of speaking English either but should I be ashamed of Irish…don’t think so.
    Béarla agus Gaeilge gan naire

  • Pol O Colgain

    Cathain a thosnaigh usaid a bhaint ag An Roinn Oideachais as an chlo romhanach igcoir an tArd Teist ins na scoileanna?
    An bhuil fios ag einne ?

  • Squall23

    Would you be happy to pay your taxes towards the Presbyterian society i wonder?