‘A Crisis In The Gaeltacht’



According to the Census 2016 results published today…

There was a fall of under 1% in the numbers of speakers of Irish (from 1,774,347 to 1,761,420).

A fall of 4% in the number of daily speakers of Irish outside of the education system (from 77,185 to 73,803).

And and a fall of 11% in the number of daily speakers of Irish in the Gaeltacht (from 23,175 to 20,586).

So. What gives?

Niall Comer, President of Conradh na Gaeilge writes:

It is clear that the implementation of the Government’s 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language is not succeeding and that the main reason for this failure is the Irish Government’s lack of investment in the Strategy since 2010. The result of this lack of investment is a crisis in the Gaeltacht.

Conradh na Gaeilge is asking the Government to face up to the challenge reflected in the census figures by funding the investment plan agreed by 80 Irish language and Gaeltacht groups.

A majority of Teachtaí Dála are in favour of this investment already. This plan would increase the number of Irish speakers and would give the Strategy a chance of success.


Census 2016: Population increases to 4.76m (RTÉ)

Conradh na Gaeilge

105 thoughts on “‘A Crisis In The Gaeltacht’

  1. Brother Barnabas

    “In terms of religion, the Census found that 78% of the population – 3.7m people – declared themselves as Roman Catholic.
    However, it is also a reduction of 132,220 compare to five years earlier when Catholics represented 84% of the population.
    10% of the population declared that they had no religion, up from 6% in 2011.”

    Very, very, very disappointing: 78% of the population are morons.

    1. classter

      That’s a ridiculous comment and more importantly, a pretty unhelpful comment if you are avowedly secular and want the rest of society to follow suit.

      My parents are practicing Catholics though neither (imo) are morons nor are either particularly subservient to senior clergy. Their faith however is important to them and though I don’t believe in God I have a pretty benign view of the faith I was raised in – i.e. their version of Catholicism.

      For all the upcoming battles, they and many like them, are far more likely to be brought along by highlighting the better values of the Church/faith – tolerance, love, compassion, fairness – rather than asking them to reject their faith altogether.

      McAleese’s contribution to the SSM debate had far more influence on my mother’s yes vote than any number of self-important, entitled youngsters telling them that Catholicism is stupid.

      1. 808

        Couldn’t agree more with this. Really insular mentality that only serves to isolate rather than educate. People used to also think the world was flat. That suited lots of people just fine until someone proved otherwise. But for lots of folk it doesn’t matter if the world is flat or round, if there is a god or not. There’s a lot of folk just getting on with things using whatever they have to make sense of the world. Calling them morons helps nobody. Except maybe yourself, although if you need to anonymously call people ‘morons’ to feel better about yourself, I kind of feel sorry for you.

        1. Brother Barnabas

          You’re clearly a moron.

          I’m not calling them morons because it makes me feel better about myself. I’m calling them for morons for unthinkingly ticking the ‘Roman Catholic’ box on the Census form*, knowing that doing so gives credence and legitimacy to the most baneful, damaging and pernicious organisation to ever operate in this society.

          * I recognise that some of those who ticked the RC box did so because they’re actual believers. They are also morons, just for other reasons.

          1. newsjustin

            Few things more lame than people trying to explain away 78% of the people declaring to be Roman Catholic by saying that they hadn’t thought about it or misunderstood the question.

          2. Brother Barnabas

            You missed the footnote, Justin. I said some of the 78% didn’t think it through and the rest are inveterate morons.

          1. Brother Barnabas

            Go on, do it.

            And I’m bringing Clampers and Rob_G around to yours later. Around 8pm suit? I suggest you pop into Boots on your way home this evening.

  2. Nugget

    Successive governments need to stop throwing money at this issue. I would love to see the real amount spent annually on a minority language. Not to mention the wasted education time spent on forced teaching.

    1. 808

      I think this is also a strange argument.

      It’s only a minority language to those who don’t speak it. For those Irish folk who speak Irish as their first language, it must feel so strange to have so many people telling them that their language, OUR language, is dead.

      1. Rob_G

        I think that we should focus our resources more on facilitating the people who want to speak Irish, rather than trying to teach it every schoolchild in the country, the majority of whom won’t have much use for it.

        1. classter

          We typically focus on providing a broad education rather than a deep and narrow one up to the end of second level.

          Learning Irish is a very sensible & natural part of this.

        2. Turgenev

          That was the argument when Latin was removed from its compulsory position in Irish schools a few decades ago. That went well, yeah?

          1. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

            Was it compulsory at one stage?
            I did Latin for my leaving. I’d do it again if I had the choice. I would have liked to have studied Greek too but I don’t think any girls’ schools do it.
            Learning for the sake of it: underrated these days I fear.

          2. Rob_G

            In that we now learn other things that are more useful than Latin – yes, I would say that it went quite well.

            (I doubt Gaeilgeoirí will appreciate your conflating of Irish with a language that has been dead for centuries, btw).

        3. Painkiller

          Hopefully Ireland will be a nation of turtlenecktop-wearing, Cantonese-speaking software developers by 2022, with the collective determination of the Borg ;)

          What we seem to lack here is a situation where the average religion or language teacher has learned many languages and religions – linguists and theologians, with a background the structural aspects and a firm grasp of effective education in these areas.

      2. Nugget

        Less than 4000 people filled out their census form in Irish. That is a truer measure of its status. Sure 1.7 million claim to have some Irish but that is because they were forced to learn it.

  3. classter

    The future of Irish cannot be tied to Gaeltacht areas.

    Irish-lovers (and I’m one) need to find a way for Irish to prosper in urban areas. We also need to stop expecting the govt to be the ones to ensure the vitality of Irish.

    1. Harry Molloy

      Think you’re right again. I love the Gaeltachts but rural populations are naturally declining and aging, and the Irish language with them.

  4. Leopold Gloom

    Teach it differently in secondary school. Stop forcing drama, poetry and fiction and expect it to be as to be as natural as English (which plenty of people also struggle with).

    If people want to do that stuff, set a second exam paper for it, Gaelic/Irish Language Studies or something.

    Otherwise, keep it simple as possible.Get people talking, learn the mechanics, nuts and bolts of the language like students are taught with French and German etc. So many people leave Secondary level with better French than they do Irish despite not speaking it for even half as long.

      1. Janet, I ate my avatar

        I only started liking it when we hit the leaving cert poetry
        up until then it was dead to me
        vaguely remember some hated little grammar book

          1. Janet, I ate my avatar

            the jam on the door handle one
            it’s all I can remember when people ask me what’s this or that in Irish here
            I always just say that real fast

          2. Kieran Nice Young Chap

            Had to go see that play performed live. Woof.

            At a separate time got to meet Maidhc Dainin O’Se (Daithi’s da) though. At least he was fun and had a sense of humour.

    1. Rob_G

      One of the difficulties of getting students enthusiastic about Irish is the fact that the vast majority will have no reason to use the language once they finish secondary school (whereas they may well use French or German).

        1. Rob_G

          Really? You can’t see any possible uses in learning French (220m speakers), or German (95m speakers)?

          1. Rob_G

            Living and working in a French/German speaking country; going on holidays in same; working for a company whose headquarters are in same…

          2. Ratatattat

            Living and working in an Irish speaking country; going on holidays in same; working for a company whose headquarters are in same…

          3. Rob_G

            There are no ‘Irish-speaking countries’; any Irish-based company I have ever worked for did all their business through English.

      1. Harry Molloy

        Well, it now is counted as a European language and if you want a job in any of the institutions of the EU you need a second language, for which Irish will suffice.
        I think this could be promoted.

        1. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

          Say that as Gaeilge and you’re off to the Commission. BOOM! Brussels, tá mé ag teacht!

          Problem is, then there’d be no Irish-speakers left here.

          Aghaigh míshásta.

    2. MoyestWithExcitement

      +1 Said before here I think, the Irish syllabus us essentially the English syllabus through Irish. It assumes you’re already fluent. I didn’t have to read any German or French poetry. It should be taught as a foreign language because it effectively is.

  5. Increasing Displacement

    “It is clear that the implementation of the Government’s 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language is not succeeding and that the main reason for this failure is the Irish Government’s lack of investment in the Strategy since 2010. The result of this lack of investment is a crisis in the Gaeltacht.”

    20 years of waste and failure to recognise the inevitable.

  6. Baffled

    Twice as many people here speak Polish daily as speak Irish outside of schools / the Gaeltacht.

    Can we stop pretending that Irish isn’t an effectively dead language that is only being propped up to support the 80 (!!!!) quangos whose members shake down the taxpayer for subsidies.

    1. Rob_G


      – I thought the same thing; maybe there would be more money with which to promote the language if they didn’t spend so much on admin.

        1. Rob_G

          I have no idea. But with 80 different organisation advocating on behalf of the language, I would say that there must be some duplication of tasks somewhere, wouldn’t you?

      1. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

        Fuair sé bás den eitinn.
        I do wish Irish short stories had been a bit brighter. Full of the eitinn and the mná na sráide.
        Well, they’re the two I remember.

        1. Kieran Nice Young Chap

          Irish literature (in both Irish and English) generally is pretty miserable and negative.

          Reflects the national psyche quite well, I think.

          1. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

            Whatchu on about? We’re all dead perky. This site, for instance. LOLZ all day, every day. No sniping, begrudging, ochóning, bitching, complaining or snarking to be seen here. Much like IRL in Irl.

  7. sǝɯǝɯʇɐpɐq

    It’s obvious we aren’t giving them enough money yet.
    We should give them more money.
    Speaking Irish for a /job requirement* or as a hobby has long been part of our culture.

    *Nuact Reader, Taoiseach, Shinner etc.

  8. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

    The Gaeltacht is a very depressing place. We drove through it last year. It seemed to be full of summer schools and not a lot else. Very bleak. There was a bit of activity around the TG4 offices, but that was around it, really. I would find it very hard to pitch it as a place for people to live…

      1. Harry Molloy

        Guess it’s down to perspective then, to me Connemara is incredible, the peace and the vastness and scenery of it. I’m at my happiest when having a pint in Leenane or Maam :-)

        1. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

          Would you live there in November, though?
          I guess I’m too much of a city slicker, being from Cork.


          1. Harry Molloy

            I’m from the west, love the west, but have always said I’d like to winter in the city and summer in the west

          2. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

            That’d be a nice life. Though in my head the perfect summer would be May and September. Always lovely months everywhere, in general.

    1. Turgenev

      One of the problems with the Gaeltachtaí is that they’re set and can’t be added to. If you could declare a street or an estate or a suburb a Gaeltacht (if a requisite proportion of households spoke Irish fluently) they’d increase and join up into larger mini-Gaeltachtaí, and join again into larger ones again.

      Teaching Irish well doesn’t have to be seen as different from teaching other subjects well. For a start, every Irish course should have one class per week that’s a “Caifé Gaelach” where the students simply speak Irish to each other and drink tea and coffee and eat snacks and relax. Using a language is the best way of learning it and loving it.

      1. Djin Genie

        I love these ideas. The current rigidity of policy and practice further entombs the language; allowing organic development could vivify it.

        1. Djin Genie

          Yes! I heard the one on Dame Lane last month was great craic, sorry to have missed it.

          Next one is in Sin É on the 27th.

        2. Rob_G

          I think that this is the type of thing that we should focus our investment towards, and not towards teaching kids ‘Urchnoc Chéin Mhic Cáinte’.

    2. Percival

      “The Gaeltacht is a very depressing place”

      For someone like you maybe who needs constant noise and flashing lights and sweets.

  9. RT

    Hmm… I’d rather see investment in social housing (and other more practical and pressing things) ahead of additional language/Gaeltacht supports, as would many other folks. Folks living in hotels, under the threat of homelessness, or on long public waiting lists for vital operations (to name a few) have a real and pressing need for more of what limited government funding is available as the “recovery” supposedly continues.

    Even if there was twice or even 10 times the investment in the language/Gaeltacht, I doubt it would shift these census figures come the next ones in 2021 or 2026. There’s also a real danger as with every government (regardless of party makeup) that their strategy/roadmap/quango to solve this “language crisis” that the money will be misspent. That’s the harsh reality whatever optimism Gaeilgeoirs wish to stress future/growth of the Irish language.

    Of course even though I think my above opinion is practical in tone and and realistic assessment of the future of the language, no doubt I’ll be accused of being a West Brit with no respect for our culture or traditions, will get one response as Gaeilge (which I won’t bother to translate) or perhaps be accused of boiling the argument down to cold hard economics

    1. classter

      I would have some sympathy for this argument if I believed, for even a second, that reduced funding for Irish (assuming you could parse it as cleanly as that) would be immediately pumped into social provision – homelessness, healthcare – or that it would amount to enough to make any sort of significant difference.

      1. RT

        Never once advocated for reduced funding for Irish, merely not to invest any more limited resources above the current levels of investment. Of course rationalisation of various language bodies would be welcomed as part of this.

        Neither of us would have any faith that the money would go to where it’s needed under any government! :-)

        In as much as I don’t engage with the language since my leaving cert in 2003 and decry the way it’s taught and disagree with more money being spent on it, I do believe it has a place in society and is an important part of our cultural and historical narrative. Just not at the expense of more practical and pressing issues. Current funding should be maintained and rationalised, but that’s it. It won’t die out if funding is not increased despite the gloomy outlook presented by Conradh

      2. Kieran Nice Young Chap


        This type of binary funding argument never makes sense to me. The world isn’t a worse place, for example, because money was used to send man to the moon. Governments and budgets can do many things at once.

  10. The Bard Of Avon

    I went to the CBS, and I’m tired of this poo, it’s your religion, it isn’t, I don’t practice it, and I don’t believe it.
    It’s your language, it isn’t, I don’t speak it, and I don’t understand it.
    Condemned to speak the language of Shakespeare.

  11. Percival

    Fine Gael HATE the Irish language because it represents the native Irish who are the eternal enemy of the Old English culture of Fine Gael.

    Fine Gael would have us back into the UK in a flash, the home counties wannabes that they are.

  12. Percival

    I can speak Irish almost fluently. It is an amazing language, so expressive and entirely removed from English. You feel more Irish when you converse using the language, more connected to this place.

    I pity those Irish people who despite it just because they were’t capable of learning it or putting the effort in. Probably spent their youth watching rubbish English game show TV while stuffing their face with processed TV dinners.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      Yep. Pretty much every argument here is some donkey essentially saying ‘I’m so much better than these lowlives’.

  13. Junkface

    How many countries in the world utterly fail to teach generations their own language? Really, thats the problem. Irish teaching has been a total and utter failure nationally, in their methods and their goals. Irish should have been thought conversationally first, and then build up the rest and branch it out with time.

    1. ReproBertie

      We can bang on about education until the cows come home but until people are comfortable and willing to use Irish in their daily lives the language will struggle. There’s no point in expecting the government to fix it. They’ve failed again and again. If people want the language to survive and thrive then they need to have the liathróidí to make an effort themselves. The pop up Gaeltacht is a brilliant idea and clearly a popular one.

  14. Gorev Mahagut

    The real issue here for Conradh na Gaeilge, and every Bean-an-tí and Gaelsccoil, is that Irish is their gravy train. They get money from de gubbamint as long as long as two conditions are met: (1) Irish is a threatened minority language, and (2) Irish is a national sacred cow before which every political knee must bend.

    But if Irish becomes a thriving language spoken by a sizeable chunk of the population, then the gravy train ends. So the professional gaelsters have to strike a balance: they need to make sure the jackeens feel like second-class citizens every time they attempt to speak Irish, and then blame the government “up in Dublin” and demand more cash to fix the “problem”.

    1. classter

      Having come across lots of ‘official’ Gaelgoirs, I must say that I never encountered this attitude even slightly.

  15. Mickey Twopints

    Emm, sorry to go off the core topic, but did anyone else notice the figures for broadband? 71% have access to broadband, with 18% having no internet access? So, all of those struggling by with dial-up (yes, it’s still a thing), 2G/EDGE mobile data and flaky-as-fupp 3G coverage (and ludicrous monthly caps) account for only 11% of households? Really?

    1. Deluded

      11% would be about half a million people so yeah, probably right.
      http://c0.thejournal.ie/media/2012/04/pop11-310×415.png … population densities, it’s already expensive maintaining 70,000 km of backroads and stringing phones, electricity, water etc from bungalow to bungalow.
      Other countries tend to cluster people in villages which cuts out all of this messing and even allows for occassional bus services etc.
      The broadband is crap out here but we are limited in how much data we can cram down the existing network of copper wires. Quality mobile data would require thousands of masts to handle all the data streams and handovers as different users move about.

      1. classter

        So many of our public service challenges come down to the fact that, outside of the cities, so many are reluctant to live in towns/villages.

  16. Stiofán

    Create incentives for companies, shops, towns, cities and public bodies to convert to Gaeilge as primary and default language. Not just schools, which are a start. There has to be growth in the number of users, otherwise the dwindling will end with extinction.

    1. classter

      I think it needs to come from language users rather than the state.

      I also personally think that, if they want to be successful, Gaelgoirs need to be less accommodating and more militant.

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