Irish Language: Census results for Irish and the Gaeltacht very much a ‘mixed bag’ showing positive and negative trends

‘Consistent, strong and ambitious support required if significant progress is to be made before the next Census’ – Conradh na Gaeilge

The Central Statistics Office has this morning published results from the 2022 Census. Amongst those results are new statistics relating to ability and use of the Irish language both inside and outside of Gaeltacht regions. Included in the main results, the following statistics were published:

  • An increase of 6.01% in the amount of people who have Irish, up from 1,761,420 in 2016 to 1,873,997 in 2022. That is equivalent to an increase of 0.6% of the population who have Irish, (excluding non-responses), up from 39.8% in 2016 to 40.4% in 2022.
  • The amount of people using Irish has, however, decreased. Those who use Irish on a daily basis fell from 73,803 in 2016 to 71,968 in 2022 (a decrease of 1,835 (2.55%)). The amount of people using Irish on a weekly basis also decreased, from 111,473 in 2016 to 109,099 in 2022 a decrease of 2,374 (2.18%). 
  • The number of people in the Gaeltacht with Irish increased from 63,664 in 2016 to 65,156 in 2022 (increase of  1,492 / +2.3%) whilst at the same time, the number of people in the Gaeltacht speaking Irish on a daily basis fell from 20,586 in 2016 to  20,261 in 2022 (a decrease of 325 / -1.6%). 
  • Those figures can be seen across the Gaeltacht Language Planning Regions, where in many regions there was an increase in daily speakers of Irish whilst in many others there was a decrease.
  • There was an increase in the number of Irish speakers in age-groups 15-24, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64 and 65+.

Paula Melvin, Uachtarán, Conradh na Gaeilge said:
“Today’s Census results are very much a mixed bag for the Irish language and the Gaeltacht, with some very positive results and some concerning results. Whilst there is a trend showing the Irish language community, those people who have Irish, is growing across the board, there is also a very clear trend showing the Irish speaking community, those using Irish on a daily or weekly basis, both inside and outside of the Gaeltacht, is decreasing.

That is a great cause for concern for Conradh na Gaeilge. The increase in numbers of younger people speaking Irish is very much one of the most positive and encouraging aspects of the results. Overall the stats show us that there is much more work to be done, and that the language and the Gaeltacht need continued support if they are to grow and flourish.”

Julian de Spáinn, Ard-Rúnaí with Conradh na Gaeilge, added:
There is a positive story here in that there is an increase across the board in the number of people who have Irish, but at the same time it is clear that the Irish speaking community is decreasing. This is a particularly urgent and serious problem. We must support the Irish-language and Gaeltacht community in using the language, both at home as a family language, as well as a community language.

In order to resolve these issues, there is an urgent need for strong, continuous and ambitious support from the State without delay to turn the tide and achieve a significant boost in the use of the Irish language. There are many things that need to be done to achieve this vision and to sustain the growth needed; there is a need to fund the Growth Plan, an Investment Plan for the Irish Language and the Gaeltacht 2024-29, which has been agreed by over 115 Irish-language and Gaeltacht groups to ensure significant long-term investment; there is a need for a national housing policy for the Gaeltacht; there is a need for an education policy from early childhood education to third level and more.

As we approach the final period of the Government’s 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-30 in the south, it is time for robust policies to be agreed and implemented, and to provide them with the necessary resources. We have a great opportunity to do that as long as we have the necessary will and commitment from politicians and communities across the country.

Twitter: @CnaG #Daonáireamh2022

Further information from Conradh na Gaeilge from Census 2022 available at: 

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