Both challenges and opportunities in the 2016 census

Census 2016 Summary Results - Part 1 was published today and gives the first results on the use of Irish among the Republic of Ireland’s population of 4,761,865.  1,761,420 (39.8%) of respondents said that they were able to speak Irish, a small fall of 0.7% on the 2011 figure. Out of the 1,761,420 people who were able to speak Irish, 73,803 of them spoke Irish daily outside of the education system, a decrease of 3,382 on the 2011 figure.

Speaking today on the publication of the results, Seán Ó Coinn, Chief Executive of Foras na Gaeilge, said that the fall in the number of people able to speak Irish demonstrates “the challenges and the opportunities facing Foras na Gaeilge and the Irish language sector in the coming years. Although the figures show that there is a small fall, there are still 1,761,420 Irish speakers in the Republic of Ireland, and that is cause for hope”.  He said, “the fall of 11.2% in the number of daily Irish speakers based in Gaeltacht areas is a cause for concern, especially in counties Mayo, Donegal and Kerry. These figures show us how fragile Irish is in the Gaeltacht. That said, the full population stands at 96,090 and 66.3% of that population has Irish. We have to take the opportunity through the language planning processes to influence the 33.7% that are not speaking Irish.”

Referring to the 20 Year Strategy for Irish 2010-2030 Ó Coinn said, “The development of the strategy had a weak start in the early years due to economic factors but 6 Irish language lead organisations were established in 2014 which focus specifically on different areas of work which provide opportunities for the use of Irish. With the basic structures of the 20 Year Strategy for Irish 2010-2030 having been implemented, language planning processes are in place, including Language Planning Areas, Gaeltacht Service Towns, Irish Language Networks and the Policy for Gaeltacht Education. These are structures which are being developed to build on the number of Irish speakers in the Gaeltacht and outside of the Gaeltacht.”

Referring to the education system, Ó Coinn said, “the number of young people (69.9%) between 10 and 19 who can speak Irish is a cause for hope and shows that teachers in many schools are succeeding in influencing young people. It is clear, however, that it is necessary to look at the education system to find out how the third (30.1%) of that age group who believe that they can not speak Irish after having come through the education system can be addressed.”

Foras na Gaeilge warmly welcomed the additional funding of €750,000 approved by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in December 2016, in the department’s announcement today.  Ó Coinn said, “it is clear that the period of cuts has come to an end and that we will have an opportunity, along with our partners in the language sector, to take on the challenges indicated by the census figures in 2017.”

Foras na Gaeilge will analyse the results along with the Irish language lead organisations, the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, the Department of Education and Skills, as well as other interested parties in coming months.




Further Information:

Anna Davitt, Programme Manager: Communication, Marketing & Awareness, Foras na Gaeilge

Tel: 0035387 673 6175