Holiday homeowners are among the biggest threats to the survival of the Irish language, according to the regional authority responsible for the development of the country's Gaeltacht regions.
Members of the Údarás na Gaeltachta board say the lack of housing in Gaeltacht areas is forcing young couples to move away from parts of the country where Irish is the predominant language spoken.
The fact that so many homes in Gaeltacht regions have been snapped up by people just wanting a holiday home is also making it harder for local Irish-speaking families to find houses to buy or rent at affordable prices.
An Údarás na Gaeltachta board spokesperson said a meeting convened in Coláiste na Rinne in the Waterford Gaeltacht, heard housing concerns raised from a delegation from the local development body, Comhlacht Forbartha na nDéise.
“The local delegation expressed concern about the growing problem of housing provision in the area,” they said.
“A high number of holiday homes in the Déise Gaeltacht, among other factors, is making it difficult for the local Irish-speaking community to find houses to buy or rent at a reasonable price.”
“The representatives of Comhlacht Forbartha na nDéise maintained that the housing issue is now the greatest danger to the preservation and strengthening of Na Déise as an Irish-speaking Gaeltacht area, as young Irish-speaking families are finding it impossible to remain in the area.”
Board members said the situation is replicated in most other Gaeltacht regions.
The Board chairperson, Anna Ní Ghallachair said: ”The housing issue is currently one of the greatest threats to the survival of Irish as a living language in the Gaeltacht and indeed outside the Gaeltacht. We, the board of Údarás na Gaeltachta, can see that the question of housing is causing great anxiety in every Gaeltacht region.
“Comhlacht Forbartha na nDéise are to be commended for their determination in grappling with this issue. Údarás na Gaeltachta is already endeavouring to find solutions in An Rinn, working in co-operation with the local community.”
She said the board is also in ongoing discussions with the local authority, offering Údarás na Gaeltachta-owned land for the provision of affordable housing. The board is also involved in research about housing provision in the Donegal Gaeltacht," she added.
“We are currently looking at all the ways in which Údarás na Gaeltachta might, within our remit, find some way of relieving the difficulties created by the dearth of suitable housing, now a problem in almost every Gaeltacht community,” she said.