Friday, 7 April 2017

'Irish language in danger of becoming extinct'

Yesterday the summary results of the 2016 census for the Irish Republic were published by the Central Statistics Office in Dublin.  

The total population, as of April 2016, was 4,761,865 people and the summary provided information about a wide range of issues.  One of these was the use of the Irish language, or Gaelic language, which is an official language of the state, along with English and there is an Official Languages Act (2003).

However the census revealed that usage of the Irish language is declining, even in the Gaeltacht areas, which are the language heartlands.

Altogether, our of the total population of 4,761,865, only 1,761,420 said that they spoke Irish.  This represents 39.8% of the population, a drop from 41.4% in 2011.  On the other hand 60.2% of the population cannot speak Irish.

The census also asked how often people speak Irish and there are some people who speak Irish every day, but they are very few in number.  In the whole of the Irish Republic, with a population of 1,761,420, only 73,803 said they speak it daily outside the education system, a fall of 3,382 on the 2011 figure.  That represents just 1.5% of the population.

The situation in the Gaeltacht areas, the traditional Irish language heartlands, was particularly alarming for language enthusiasts.  You might imagine that everyone there spoke Irish on a daily basis but in fact only 21.4% of a total population of 96,090 in the native speaking population said they spoke Irish on  daily basis.  This represents a decrease of 11.2% since 2011.

Henry McGee, writing in the Irish Times actually said that 'Irish is in danger of becoming extinct as a native language.'

Meanwhile Dr John Walsh of the Department of Irish in the National University of Ireland, Galway, described the census figures as 'worrying'.

Now the census summary was being reported by RTE on its website last night. but that report made no mention of the Irish language figures.

So was it on the BBC Northern Ireland news website?  The census related to the Irish Republic but BBC Northern Ireland news often strays across the border.  No I couldn't find any report  there.

Then perhaps Stephen Nolan or William Crawley covered it on Radio Ulster.  Between them the two programmes have three hours of broadcasting but today neither touched on the Irish language figures in the census.

Eventually I found it on the BBC News website on the Europe page!  Now if that means all news about the Irish Republic will in future be on the Europe news page rather than the Northern Ireland news page so be it.  It's where it should be but generally isn't.  Moreover I doubt if many people in Northern Ireland check out the Europe page.  Nevertheless I will do in future.

Then I also discovered that there is a Republic of Ireland section below the Northern Ireland news  on the website and it was there as well.  However because language was mentioned in the headline I doubt if many people would have read down to the relevant section.

As regards live news reports on radio and television, I didn't manage to hear any Radio Ulster news on Friday or see the BBC Northern Ireland news on television., but I will certainly ask.

In any case, the BBC is clearly aware of the information, so will it be covered by either Nolan or Talkaback on Monday?

Will Pobal, Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the other advocates of an Irish Language Act in Northern Ireland be asked to comment on it?

If the BBC can send Stephen Walker to Wales to report on the Welsh Language Act will they now send him over the border to report on what has happened in the Republic?

Turning then to newspapers there were census reports in a number of daily newspapers and it was interesting to compare and contrast the reports.  The three Northern Ireland daily newspapers all carried reports on the census figures as did the Irish Times, the Irish Examiner and the Irish Independent.

All of them reported the census but only five of the six newspapers reported the decline in the use of the Irish language, while one newspaper omitted it completely and that was the Irish News.

Interestingly both the News Letter and the Irish News had taken their reports from Ed Carty, a journalist with the Press Association.  Everything that was in the Irish News report was also in the News Letter report but the section covering the Irish language was missing entirely from the Irish News version.

We can only speculate as to why the Irish News, an avowedly nationalist newspaper, didn't want to report this news.

The BBC is our public service broadcaster and it has given extensive coverage to news stories about the Irish language, indeed I was on The View last night in discussion with an Irish speaker.  So why was the story of the Republic's census figures ignored ... or was it censored?  Admittedly it is a negative story about Irish but the BBC is always ready to carry negative stories about other cultural traditions and other expressions of cultural identity.  So what happened this time?

Surely in the context of the ongoing debate about an Irish Language Act in Northern Ireland, this story has a special relevance?

For those who want to see the official summary of the census this is the link:

1 comment:

  1. This proves, BEYOND DOUBT, that the sectarian Provisional movement are flogging a dead horse. They see the Irish Language as a weapon with which to beat the PUL community.

    Speaking of horses, let us remember what the Provo Chief Gerry Adams said in Fermanagh in November 2014:

    Mr Adams said he was often asked by republicans "what's the point?"
    "They weren't blaming Sinn Féin - in fact they were making the point that Sinn Féin were doing their best," he said.
    "But what's the point? The point is to actually break these bastards - that's the point. And what's going to break them is equality. That's what's going to break them - equality.
    "Who could be afraid of equality? Who could be afraid of treating somebody the way you want to be treated?
    "That's what we need to keep the focus on - that's the Trojan horse of the entire republican strategy is to reach out to people on the basis of equality."


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