More than two out of five people would like to learn Irish and speak it more often but support is not as strong in Northern Ireland, a survey suggests.
In a week when many parts of the world do their best to prove their Irishness, the strongest interest in the country’s first language is from people living in Connacht and Ulster.
However, almost half of those questioned in Munster as part of the research for Conradh na Gaeilge do not want to learn Irish or improve whatever knowledge they already have.
The strong support in the North-West may be tied to the strong view there that competence in Irish is an advantage when seeking work. While 47% of survey participants in the Republic of Ireland agree with this idea, it is believed by more than two-thirds of the Connacht/Ulster residents.
Kantar Millward Brown interviewed 1,085 people aged 15 and older at 60 locations last month in the for Conradh na Gaeilge. The results were published as it held a Lá na Meán Sóisialta, an opportunity for people to use their Irish on social media during the Seachtain na Gaeilge campaign to promote the language.
In the North, where efforts to give the language a legal status are at the heart of political stalemate, there is much more moderate support. Of the 1,012 people interviewed there, aged 16 or over, opposition to learning or speaking Irish is highest among people aged 55 and older.
But one in four of all those interviewed in the North said they would like to speak it more and 27% would like to learn or learn more.
The survey report said that the interview samples both north and south were weighted to reflect the profile of the broader population, with religious affiliation also identified in the North. The strongest support north of the border appears to be in Belfast, and among most those in younger age brackets.
The highest levels of confidence in their ability to speak Irish in the Republic are found among younger people. The 52% of them who are confident in their spoken Irish compares much more favourably than around 60% of those over 55 who are not.
This may be linked to the relative experiences of different age groups with Irish in the education system, although second-level schools are currently having problems finding staff qualified to teach it and other languages.
With some support also for bilingual labelling of commercial products, Conradh na Gaeilge general secretary, Julian de Spáinn said the survey shows that Irish has a role in employment and marketing, as well as its social and education aspects.
“The statistics show a shift in mindset,” he said. “They dispel the myth that Irish is “not useful” — as people now believe that there are employment benefits to having the language.”
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