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Ipsos MRBI 50th Anniversary Survey – The Irish Language

Very hard to comment on this, since we don’t have the details of the survey, but the Irish Times carries an article examining the latest batch of results from the Ipsos MRBI 50th anniversary poll which claims that only 26% of the population (excluding the north-east) wishes to see Irish as the main spoken language of the country.

“A large majority of adults say they are able to speak Irish but do not want it to be revived as the main spoken language, according to the Ipsos MRBI 50th anniversary poll.

The survey shows that a total of 74 per cent say they are able to speak some Irish.

Ability to speak Irish varies with age and geography, according to the poll results. In general, younger people are more likely to be able to say they can speak the language well.

A total of 27 per cent of those aged 18-34 are able to speak the language either “very well” or “fairly well”. The proportion is lower among older age groups such as those aged 35-54 (16 per cent) and the over-55s (19 per cent).

Students are more likely to be able to speak some Irish (85 per cent). The figures are lower for those who are working (80 per cent ) and not working (70 per cent).

People’s ability to understand spoken Irish on radio or television is comparable to their ability to speak it.

Again, a majority of people – 74 per cent – say they can understand Irish.

In general, younger people and those from Connacht/ Ulster and Munster were more likely to be able to understand the language.

Most people are positively disposed towards Irish and would like to see it used more widely – but only to a point. A majority say they do not want Irish revived as the main spoken language of the country.

When asked whether they would like to see the language revived as the main tongue, 61 per cent said no and 27 per cent said yes, with the remaining 12 per cent of no opinion.”

The last result above somewhat contradicts the claim made elsewhere in the survey that 58% wish to see Irish used more widely.

Would you personally like to see the Irish language used more widely in everyday life?

Yes: 58%

No: 31%

No Opinion: 11%

Would you like to see it revived as the main language?

Yes: 27%

No: 61%

No Opinion: 12%”

The Irish Times article unfortunately gives no further information on the Ipsos MRBI poll such as details of nationality (i.e how many of those surveyed were non-Irish nationals) or the breakdown in ages of those who favour a full language restoration (anecdotal evidence points towards a higher proportion in favour amongst the 18-34 age group). The results on the issue of Irish versus English as the daily vernacular of the nation certainly run contrary to previous surveys where the contest has been much closer. The most comprehensive academic study of recent years was 2009’s “The Irish Language and the Irish People” from the National University of Ireland in Maynooth which found that 40.2% of the population wished to see Irish restored as the main language, as opposed to 52.9% who wished to see it merely “preserved”.

In the 2011 Census of Ireland 41.4% of the population voluntarily entered their status as Irish-speaking (an unexpected jump from 1.66 million people in 2006 to 1.77 million). Despite claims to the contrary by Anglophone zealots detailed analysis of the statistics revealed that at least 10-15% of the population consisted of a growing number of fluent Irish-speaking citizens. That result more closely matched the findings of the 2009 NUI Maynooth study.

More on this later.

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