A report published today by Údarás na Gaeltachta has revealed that the social use of Irish in the Gaeltacht is declining at an even more rapid rate than predicted in their last report in 2007. It found that there are only 21 communities where Irish is spoken on a daily basis by 67% or more of the population (the acknowledged tipping point for language survival).
Responding to this report, Liadh Ní Riada, Sinn Féin MEP for Ireland South, has described its findings as ‘a damning indictment of the strategies implemented by successive governments, not least the current administration which has demonstrated no interest in the survival of the Irish language as a spoken vernacular’.
Liadh Ní Riada MEP said:
"As a woman from a Gaeltacht community, I find all of this to be utterly heartbreaking. As an Irish citizen, I regard it as shameful. As we embark of a programme to commemorate the vision and courage of those who declared the Irish Republic in 1916, this is a damning indictment of successive governments who have abjectly failed to deliver on a core objective of those revolutionaries: the survival and development of the Irish language as a spoken vernacular.
"Far from enhancing and developing the status of spoken Irish in Gaeltacht communities, the strategies implemented by those in power failed abysmally to achieve any appreciable improvement … in fact we have seen the reverse. Where we needed sustained commitment to the language from political leaders, we got tokenism and stroke politics instead. Given this lack of commitment to our Irish language community by those in power and given the lack of thought-out and measurable strategies over many years, is it any wonder that things are so bad? It is extremely worrying and God only knows how bad things will get if this Government is re-elected.
"The record speaks for itself. The former language commissioner Seán Ó Cuirreáin resigned, citing lack of Government support as the reason. There has been a shocking reluctance to implement the 20-year language strategy. They have failed thus far to lift the language derogation in the EU. Investment in the language is minimal, and they appointed a Minister with responsibility for the Gaeltacht with no Irish!
"On a positive note, I take heart that the majority of Irish people are supportive of the language and that a recent survey found that over 70% of Irish people want an increase in public services as Gaeilge. I take heart too from the ongoing success of the Gaelscoileanna movement and the continuing efforts of Irish language enthusiasts the length and breadth of Ireland. But I am heartbroken that we have reached a stage where the very survival of Irish as the spoken vernacular in Gaeltacht communities is doubtful. Mór mo náire!
"This is a cultural crisis and decisive action needs to be taken immediately to address it. Sinn Féin will actively support any initiative aimed at consolidating the language within those Gaeltacht communities. This will require sustained political commitment, including the provision of services through Irish and focused investment in the economy and social infrastructure of Gaeltacht communities. The alternative – the inevitable death of the Gaeltacht – is a scenario that we are duty-bound to resist.”