Death knell for the Irish language?

Michelle NicPhaidin

Reporter:

Michelle NicPhaidin

Death knell for the Irish language?
Local groups are battling for the survival of Irish in Donegal amid reports that the language may be in danger of extinction in the Gaeltacht.

Local groups are battling for the survival of Irish in Donegal amid reports that the language may be in danger of extinction in the Gaeltacht.

Donegal County Council’s Coiste na Gaeilge this week heard that if the number of Irish speakers in the Gaeltacht continues to drop, the language will not be in existence in 10 to 15 years.

Dónal Ó Cnáimhsí, assistant treasurer of Meitheal Pleanála Teanga an Iarthuaiscirt (MPT), told coiste members: “It is the last chance to do something effective about the Irish language.”

Mr. Ó Cnáimhsí said it is understood that should the number of daily Irish speakers fall beneath 66 per cent, it will not survive. He said it was also understood that 76 per cent of people now speak Irish on a daily basis in the stronger gaeltachtaí. He warned that should the numbers keep slipping, the Irish language will not be in existence in ten to 15 years.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs Joe McHugh said he is “completely positive” about the survival of the Irish language.

He said that his department and the Department of Education acted on recent research that indicated that there are only 1,000 native Irish speakers in national schools in the strongest Gaeltacht areas, a figure which he admits presents challenges.

“We have initiated a consultation to try and increase resources in Gaeltacht schools that agree to fully immerse junior and senior infants in the Irish language,” he said.

He said those schools will be better resourced with a better pupil-to-teacher ratio. The minister said that every minority language faces challenges due to the dominance of the English language.

The Donegal Gaeltacht covers 16 per cent of the county.