Irish is one of Ireland's two official languages (along with English). Historically the predominant language of the island, it is now a minority language in most parts, although Irish-speaking areas still exist in parts of the south, west, and northwest of Ireland. The legally defined Irish-speaking areas are called the Gaeltacht; all government institutions of the Republic of Ireland (in particular, the parliament (Oireachtas), its upper house (Seanad) and lower house (Dáil), and the prime minister (Taoiseach) are officially named in this language, even in English. At present, the Gaeltachtaí are primarily found in Counties Cork, Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Kerry, and, to a lesser extent, in Waterford and Meath. In the Republic of Ireland 1,774,437 (41.4% of the population aged three years and over) regard themselves as able to speak Irish. Of these, 77,185 (1.8%) speak Irish on a daily basis outside school. Irish is also undergoing a revival in Northern Ireland and has been accorded some legal status there under the 1998 Belfast Agreement. The 2001 census in Northern Ireland showed that 167,487 (10.4%) people "had some knowledge of Irish". Combined, this means that around one in three people (~1.8 million) on the island of Ireland can understand Irish to some extent, although a large percentage of these do not speak it fluently. The census figures do not take into account those Irish who have emigrated, and it has been estimated (rightly or wrongly) that there are more native speakers of Irish in Britain, the US, Australia, and other parts of the world than there are in Ireland itself.
Before the period of the Great Famine of the 1840s, the language was spoken by the vast majority of the population, but the famine and emigration led to a decline which has begun to reverse only very recently.
As well as the general assumption by the English and Anglicised ruling classes following the Flight of the Earls and disappearance of much of the Gaelic aristocracy that Irish was a language spoken by ignorant peasants.
The Irish language has been officially recognised as a working language by the European Union. Ireland's national language is the twenty-first to be given such recognition by the EU and previously had the status of a treaty language.
Read more about this topic: Goidelic Languages
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Famous quotes containing the word irish:
“The difference of the English and Irish character is nowhere more plainly discerned than in their respective kitchens. With the former, this apartment is probably the cleanest, and certainly the most orderly, in the house.... An Irish kitchen ... is usually a temple dedicated to the goddess of disorder; and, too often, joined with her, is the potent deity of dirt.”
—Anthony Trollope (18151882)
“Irishness is not primarily a question of birth or blood or language; it is the condition of being involved in the Irish situation, and usually of being mauled by it.”
—Conor Cruise OBrien (b. 1917)
“Louise, something in me tightens when an American intellectuals eyes shine, and they start to talk to me about the Russian people. Something in me says, Watch it, a new version of Irish Catholicism is being offered for your faith.”
—Warren Beatty (b. 1937)