One of the official languages of Ireland is Irish and most children experience a compulsory 14 year cycle of Irish lessons on a daily basis in school but according to the article above, only 82,600 people in Ireland speak the language outside of school – approximately 2% of the population. In fact, Polish is now the second most spoken language in the country today.
Something is obviously very wrong when statistics like this come out. Reactions will inevitably range from denial to acceptance. For example, 1.77 million people marked that they could speak Irish – however, this is still only 41% of the population.
Another inevitability is that schools will be blamed for this; after all, how is it possible that after 14 years of instruction, many students leave school with a better knowledge of French, Spanish or some other “3rd language?” Different people will have their reasons.
I believe that we need to logically assess why Irish has been allowed to become the third language of Ireland. We need to cut out the denial, the blaming of others and any other excuses. I say this not as a proponent of the language – one might suggest that Ireland’s greatest strength is in our ability to speak English fluently – but then there’s the adage of “Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam.” There’s a definite richness to the Irish language, which has shaped the Irish people in how we hold ourselves. However, Irish is simply not being spoken by Irish people and we need to fix it before it becomes extinct.