The term ‘Gaeltacht’ is used to describe the regions in Ireland in which the Irish language is, or was until recently, the primary spoken language of the majority of the community. The Gaeltacht regions are recognised in Government orders and successive Governments have acknowledged that particular legislation, structures and funding are required to ensure the viability of the Gaeltacht communities.
The development and defence of the Gaeltacht regions and the Irish language is vitally important and the primary aim of Údarás na Gaeltachta is to strengthen the Irish language as the primary community language in these regions. The Irish language has suffered challenges for many years now, but it still survives as a living language in Gaeltacht regions among communities that have an unbroken connection through language with their ancestors. This means that the Gaeltacht regions are entirely unique in the Irish context. It is important to protect this uniqueness in today’s connected world and it is widely recognised that the most successful regions in today’s world are those that have their own unique characteristics. It is also important to protect the Irish language in the Gaeltacht because the language is the root of the other types of wealth that exists in the Gaeltacht.
There is a very strong traditional arts culture in the Gaeltacht and the people of the Gaeltacht are famous for their dancing, song, crafts etc. As well as that, the culture and spirit of enterprise is continually growing in the Gaeltacht and the people of the Gaeltacht are consistently succeeding in the world of business. It is now understood that multilingualism gives many advantages to a person and it is very important that the communities that have continued to speak the native language of Ireland are protected.
The Gaeltacht covers large areas of counties Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Kerry as well as sections of counties Cork, Meath and Waterford.
Six of Ireland’s inhabited islands are also in the Gaeltacht. The total population of the Gaeltacht is 96,090 (2016 Census).