THE number of people speaking Irish daily is at its highest point since the Famine. Government-supported research from NUI Maynooth found almost half of those surveyed believe they are reasonably competent in speaking the cúpla focal as Gaeilge, with 25% holding a conversation through the language on a regular basis.
According to the Fr Michael MacGreil-led study, the use of Irish is now at its highest point in 150 years and has reached a stage where it can be revived as a viable alternative to the English language.
The ‘Irish Language and the Irish People’ research has also found that despite the general perception that the Irish language heartland is in the west of the country, the number of people who say they are speaking the language on a regular basis is higher in the greater Dublin region — described by the author of the report as “the Pale”.
According to the study of 1,015 people between November and March, 41.9% of people surveyed in the capital support reviving the language, compared to 48.5% in the Mid-west and south-east regions.
In the Border, Midlands and western areas the research has found 34.1% of people are in support of the language, with the figure increasing to 38.4% in the Mid-west and south-west.
Dismissing suggestions that the figures are flawed as they are based on self-perceived competency of those taking part in the survey, Fr MacGreil said respondents had “no reason to tell lies if they are anonymous” and that any unreliable figures would have been identified prior to the research being published.
“Never since the time of the Famine was there so many people with a reasonable standard of Irish.
“These findings are not surprising. There were signs of a revival in the 1988-89 survey, and what these figures show is the language is getting stronger among the well educated and those in good jobs,” he said.
Minister for Rural, Community and Gaeltacht Affairs, Eamon Ó Cuiv, welcomed the research findings as a significant step forward in the revival of the language, adding that he found it personally striking that there is “no difference” in support for Irish speakers in the native and immigrant populations.
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