Further west, Dingle, which is within the boundaries of the west Kerry Gaeltacht, has already been selected as a Gaeltacht service town. That has to be seen as a tacit admission that there isn’t as much Irish in use in Dingle as might be expected. In fact, Dingle is classed as ‘category C’ for Irish language use.
The strongest class, category A, is now confined to the westernmost sea coast stretch around Dún Chaoin, Baile nan Gall, and Baile an Fheirtéaraigh.
Even Ventry, and places closer to Dingle town, have declined to a category B.
The Gaeltacht Act promotes the use of Irish in towns that are outside the Gaeltacht, but which are used by Irish speakers.
A lead organisation/committee will be selected in each service town to put together a language plan. Funding of €20,000 is available to draw up a plan over two years.
Roibeard Ó hEartáin, Irish officer with Kerry County Council, said: “People don’t look for services in Irish, because they know they are not available.”
It is one thing to train people to speak Irish, but “they must be given an opportunity to speak it,” he added.
Udarás na Gaeltactha member and West Kerry councillor, Seamus Cosaí Fitzgerald, said this is “a bottom-up approach” to the language by Udarás, which is implementing the programme: “It will, it is hoped, deepen the use of Irish in Dingle town, as well as in areas close to Dingle.”
There is extreme concern that even in west Kerry Irish is not as prevalent as it was two decades ago.
West Kerry Irish speakers have noted that they need to be assured that if they attend hospitals in Tralee, or have dealings with the gardaí, or call into Bus Eireann, they will not be embarrassed to speak in Irish. And it is hoped that even festivals like the Rose of Tralee will have an Irish language element.