The new Irish language social networking site Abair Leat!, which is primarily aimed at language learners, has been officially launched by the Irish-American comedian and Gaeilgeoir Des Bishop. From the Irish Times:

“… Abair Leat! is the first user generated content application of its kind and allows users to create a personal profile, add friends and exchange messages in Irish.

The core concept of is that at least 70 per cent of all posts and comments must be in Irish. It automatically calculates the percentage of Irish in each post and then invites the user to amend the submission if required.

A spellchecker is provided and an integrated version of Google translate allows users to translate any words they do not know.

Updates are automatically posted to Facebook and Twitter and site developers are planning to introduce an integrated thesaurus and speech synthesiser in the coming months. A smartphone app is planned for later in the year.

Originally intended as an educational resource for students attending Coláiste Lurgan – one of the country’s oldest Irish language summer colleges, the Abair Leat! concept was developed by company owner Mícheál Ó Foighil.

The website was built in association with US digital advertising agency Fantasy Interactive (FI) using ‘Contain’, FI’s social media platform.

Founded by Dubliner David Martin in 1999, FI has developed into a global firm with offices in New York, San Francisco and Stockholm. FI counts companies such as Porsche, Ducati, Google and CBS News among its customers.”

FI’s impressive portfolio of clients has led to a lot of free publicity for Abair Leat! and the website is generating a great deal of positive feedback for its slick look and tech-savvy nature. However, in the Irish Independent, Des Bishop also points to the torrent of abuse and discrimination Irish speakers regularly face when online necessitating a site like Abair Leat!

“”I’m a big user of Facebook and Twitter but when you post in Irish, people who speak Irish respond, but then everyone else makes passive/ aggressive comments saying things like, ‘Why are you speaking this dead language?’ and ‘I don’t understand’ or ‘speak English, please’. Irish is funny for some people, they get very upset,” he said.

“If two people were posting in Polish, no one would ask, ‘Why are you speaking in Polish?’”

Indeed, but the discrimination towards Irish speakers is not confined to online, anglophone trolls and bigots but is widely reflected throughout Irish society and the media establishment in particular.

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