Irish 101

There are parts of Ireland where Irish is spoken as a traditional, native language. These regions are known collectively as the Gaeltachtaí. These are in County Galway ( Contae na Gaillimhe ), including Connemara ( Conamara ), the Aran Islands ( na hOileáin Árann ), Carraroe ( An Cheathrú Rua ) and Spiddal ( An Spidéal ); on the west coast of County Donegal ( Contae Dhún na nGall ); in the part which is known as Tyrconnell ( Tír Chonaill ); and Dingle Peninsula ( Corca Dhuibhne ) in County Kerry ( Contae Chiarraí ). Smaller ones also exist in Mayo ( Contae Mhaigh Eo ), Meath ( Contae na Mí ), Waterford ( Contae Phort Láirge ), and Cork ( Contae Chorcaí ).

To summarise the extent of the survival: (See Hindley, 'The Death of the Irish Language') Irish remains as a natural vernacular in the following areas: south Connemara, from a point west of Spiddal, covering Inverin, Carraroe, Rosmuck, and the islands; the Aran Islands, with the exception of the town of Kilronan on Inishmore; northwest Donegal in the area around Gweedore, including Rannafast, Gortahork, the surrounding townlands and Tory Island; in the townland of Rathcarn, Co. Meath.

Irish remains the normal language of the older population, but is not the conversational language of the majority of young people in the Gaeltacht as it currently stands. Despite this, the great majority of them can speak the language fluently. They choose English for social factors.

Gweedore ( Gaoth Dobhair ), County Donegal is the largest Gaeltacht parish in Ireland.

The numerically and socially strongest Gaeltacht areas are those of South Connemara, the west of the Dingle Peninsula and northwest Donegal, in which the majority of residents use Irish as their primary language. These areas are often referred to as the Fíor-Ghaeltacht ("true Gaeltacht") and collectively have a population just under 20,000.

Irish summer colleges are attended by tens of thousands of Irish teenagers annually. Students live with Gaeltacht families, attend classes, participate in sports, go to céilithe and are obliged to speak Irish. All aspects of Irish culture and tradition are encouraged.

According to data compiled by the Irish Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, only one quarter of households in officially Gaeltacht areas possess a fluency in Irish. The author of a detailed analysis of the survey, Donncha Ó hÉallaithe, described the Irish language policy followed by Irish governments a "complete and absolute disaster". The Irish Times (January 6, 2002), referring to his analysis, which was initially published in the Irish language newspaper Foinse , quoted him as follows: "It is an absolute indictment of successive Irish Governments that at the foundation of the Irish State there were 250,000 fluent Irish speakers living in Irish-speaking or semi Irish-speaking areas, but the number now is between 20,000 and 30,000."

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