The Economic and Social Research Institute, the well-known independent think-tank, has released a new, one hundred page study titled, “Attitudes towards the Irish Language on the Island of Ireland, August 2015”, edited by Dr. Merike Darmody of the ESRI and Tania Daly of Amárach Research. The document outlines the current status of our indigenous language and its speakers both nationally across Ireland and regionally in the north-east of the country. So far the results seem to have taken more than a few right-wing Anglophone commentators by surprise, with some already contesting their veracity. The analysis shows that 57% of respondents in the 26 Counties have either basic or advanced fluency in Irish, with 13% speaking it weekly and 33% less regularly than that. In contrast 17% in the 6 Counties displayed basic or advanced fluency in Irish, with 2% speaking it weekly and 12% less than that. In both cases language use was dominated by younger participants though 67% of all those surveyed in the 26 Cos. and 45% in the 6 Cos. stated that they had positive feelings towards the Irish language.
One interesting set of statistics thrown up by the research found that 33% of adult respondents in the 26 Cos. and 31% in the 6 Cos. had at least one friend who speaks Irish outside the home. A further 38% of adults nationally had ‘friends who are bringing up their children through Irish at home or who use a lot of Irish with their children’, which is only slightly higher than the regional figure of 31% for the north-east. The survey also found that 37% of respondents in the 26 Cos. and 29% in the 6 Cos. believed that neither the national government in Dublin or the regional administration in Belfast were doing enough to service the needs of the language and its speakers. In contrast 31% and 24% respectively felt they were doing enough.
On the question of Ireland remaining a bilingual island nation with English as the principal speech 43% on a national level and 34% on a regional level were in favour. 26% nationally and 38% regionally believed that the language should be disregarded. Sadly only 6% in the 26 Cos. and 5% in the 6 Cos. believed that Irish should be restored as the principal or sole language of the country. Which shows how far the language’s status has slipped over the last several decades and how little has been done to promote this solution to our linguistic travails.