Údaras na Gaeltachta, the body dedicated to economic, social, and cultural development in the Gaeltacht, released a disturbing report concerning the decline of the Irish language. It stated, in brief, that a review of a 2007 study the rate of decline in the use of Irish as the primary language in Gaeltacht regions showed that the rate of decline has actually become much worse than feared, and if some means of intervention were not taken, the language would become non-viable within a decade.
Since its inception in 1980, Údaras Na Gaeltachta, despite having a staff of just under 100, has managed to create close to 7,000 employment opportunities within various regions of the Gaeltacht,c that utilise and/or promote the Irish language.
Since childhood, I have heard various alarming reports concerning the decline of the Irish language, not just in the Gaeltacht, or even the whole of Ireland, but worldwide amongst Irish emigrants. These reports, I was assured by many, were ‘scare tactics’ designed to incite people to take more of a concern in the survival of the language.
You should be scared. As Pádraig Pearse said, a country without a language is a country without a soul. The problem is largely a socioeconomic one, as many young Irish people do not see the benefit of either becoming fluent, or conversing in their native tongue, as the European Union has failed to recognise Irish as a viable language of commerce, or diplomacy, but rather as a cultural relic.
There is some hope in that many in the new generation of Irish children born since the turn of the millenium have a stronger connection to, proficiency in, and affinity for Irish as compared to their parents and grandparents. Many have attended Gaeilscoileanna, Irish language-medium schools, that have consistently outperformed other public and private educational institutions. And they have grown up with a much wider selection of Irish language media. Where those of us in older generations had Peig and the bleak world of the Blasket Islands, they had TG4 cartoons, and the Irish edition of Harry Potter. Any hope for long-term improvement, however, depends on there being motives and opportunities to continue speaking Irish after they leave school.
The next post will contain a list of various resources, for those at home and abroad, to begin or continue their Irish language education, as a means of preserving their cultural heritage, and to promote the general worldview of Irish as a language, that is not only a cultural resource, but a viable political and economic resource.
For the full report from Údaras na Gaeltachta, see: