As 2020 draws to a close, Foras na Gaeilge casts an eye back on the opportunities and challenges that arose. 2020 was an exceptional and difficult year in the area of health and for everyone worldwide, but the areas of community, education, business and the arts in the Irish language sector had challenges to overcome when the COVID-19 global pandemic struck in the first quarter of 2020.
Although the coronavirus had an impact on the plans of every Foras na Gaeilge employee and grantee, all cooperation was given to adapt arrangements and plans to the restrictions.
Highlights of the year include the following areas and projects:
• Foras na Gaeilge made the greatest investment in 2020 in communities. Significant investment of approximately €8.5 million was made in the community (€1 out of every €2 of the Foras na Gaeilge budget) through the six Irish language lead organisations, Scéim Pobal Gaeilge, as well as the youth, education, arts and sports scholarships schemes.
• President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins launched the first major Irish dictionary in sixty years, Concise English Irish Dictionary. The publication is in great demand and more than 5,000 copies have been sold since September 2020.
• In the area of lexicography and terminology, there was an increase in the number of users of Foras na Gaeilge sites: 2.4 million users on focloir.ie (an increase of 13% from 2019), 2.4 million users on teanglann.ie (an increase of 26% from 2019) and 560,000 users on tearma.ie (an increase of 17% from 2019).
• In the area of language planning, plans were approved for five networks and one Gaeltacht service town throughout the island for the next seven years.
• There was an increase of 5.3% in Áis book sales compared to 2019 and 200,000 books were distributed to more than 250 book shops throughout the country and abroad.
• The twelve Irish language publishers who receive support from the Publishing Scheme published seventy two books in 2020.
• The website léitheoirí.ie was established in conjunction with Comhar to nurture and develop the Irish language reading community.
• 21.6 million impressions show that the cross-platform campaign #LeChéile made a big impression on the online community. There was an increase of 468% in the number of views of Foras na Gaeilge accounts as a result of the campaign which supported the community to use Irish at home during lockdown.
Foras na Gaeilge Chief Executive, Seán Ó Coinn, said, “I was very proud of our grantees and the Foras na Gaeilge staff for the support they gave each other to take on the coronavirus restrictions during 2020. We have been operating remotely for nine months now and the amount we have achieved gives me confidence and optimism for the year to come. The Irish language community throughout the country have shown they have the capacity and resilience as a community to support each other, and to be a language community, albeit a virtual community. I would like say a special word of thanks to the six Irish language lead organisations for their efforts and diligence during the year and the support they gave to the Irish language community throughout the country.
We published the first major Irish language dictionary in sixty years this year and we are delighted that 5,000 copies have been sold, copies are getting scarce already!”
Acting chairperson of Foras na Gaeilge, Barra Ó Muirí, welcomed the board appointments the North/South Ministerial Council on behalf of the two governments: Liadh Ní Riada, Kevin O'Hara, Caoimhín Mac Giolla Mhín, Doiminic Ó Brolcháin, Liam Rushe, Waraola Majekodunmi, Neasa Ní Chiaráin, agus Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh, and the re-appointment of Sorcha Ní Chéidigh and Máire Ní Neachtain. “The expertise and experience of the members will contribute greatly to the business of the board in 2021. I want to give a special word of thanks to our chairperson, Pól Ó Gallchóir, whose term on the board came to an end, for his direction, vision and support for Foras na Gaeilge from 2017.”