2022 Census

Census figures give insight for the first time into the level of Irish fluency of people in the Gaeltacht
A slight drop of 1.6% in the number of daily Irish speakers compared to a drop of 11% in 2016

30 May, 2023

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Údarás na Gaeltachta welcomes the publication of the 2022 Census figures for the Irish language, which give us a factual basis for the state of the Irish language as it is, throughout the country and specifically in the Gaeltacht areas.

 When analysing the number of people who speak Irish daily there is a slight drop of 1.6% in the number of daily speakers outside the education system to 20,261. There is an increase in the number of people who speak Irish daily in the counties Kerry and Waterford. Despite this, the number of people who speak Irish on a daily basis outside the education system fell in the other Gaeltacht counties, Mayo and Donegal specifically. For the first time this year, the self-assessed Irish ability of the Gaeltacht people is analysed, and this shows that 45,880 people speak Irish well or very well.

 The newly published census figures show that there is an increase in the number of people who have the ability to speak Irish in Gaeltacht areas – an increase of 1,492 to 65,165.

 There was a national increase in the number of people who indicated that they have the ability to speak Irish, an increase of 6% between 2016 and 2022 to 1,873,997, the second census period in which this happened.


Tomás Ó Síocháin, chief executive of Údarás na Gaeltachta, said: “It is really important that the figures published today are available to us and that we now have more up to date information about the use of Irish in the Gaeltacht. Although there is a small drop overall for the number of daily Irish speakers – 1.6% it is significant that this is a decrease from the drop of 11% in 2016. There was an increase in the number of daily Irish speakers in ten of the Language Planning Areas.’’

 ‘’It is clear that in areas where there has been a fall there is an urgent need for further screening and combing of census figures, work that will begin immediately including the areas where the number of daily speakers has increased.’’

 “It is clear from the information published this morning that the Irish language is under pressure in some Gaeltacht language planning areas. It is now up to the state organisations and the Gaeltacht communities, working together, to face these challenges, as we want the Irish language to be strengthened and the number of people who speak the language daily to increase. It is clear that we will have a big and challenging job ahead of us, but we are committed to it.”

 “At the same time, it is important to acknowledge the signs of hope, an increase in ten of the areas. For more than a year, the footprint of the work being done by Language Planning Officers is clearly visible in the Gaeltacht. It is worth taking into account, due to certain circumstances, the pandemic among them – that we were in the middle of 2021 before there was a significant increase in activities taking place in the communities due to the implementation of the process. But the language planning process is now in full swing in 26 Language Planning Areas and two Gaeltacht Service Towns. Language plans are implemented by 29 language planning organisations across the Gaeltacht and a total annual budget of €3.2m is attached to those language plans.’’

 “There will be further investigation done on these figures, in order to get a more complete picture of language patterns in the Gaeltacht areas and the context of the changes that have occurred since 2016. We have already started this work in Údarás na Gaeltachta and the information from the 2022 Census will be central to the policies we will be setting out in the future. “