Irish was the only language spoken in Ireland until the 17th century, but the dominance of English and the effects of 19th-century potato famines and emigration led to a sharp decline in the population. Today, Irish is spoken as a first language by a small minority of the population of Ireland. The main concentrations of native Irish speakers are scattered along the west coast of Ireland. An Irish-speaking area is called Gaeltacht. When the Republic of Ireland was established in 1922, Irish was adopted as an official language, along with English.
Since then it has been a compulsory subject in government-funded schools. A relatively recent development is the spread of gaelscoileanna, i.e., schools in which Irish is the medium of instruction. Irish is also used in radio broadcasting (Raidió na Gaeltachta), television (Teilifis na Gaeilge), in newspapers, magazines, literature, theater, and the arts. In spite of all these efforts, the future of the Irish language remains uncertain. Although the number of speakers of Irish is rising in urban areas due to Irish-medium instruction, young people in Gaeltacht tend to use the language less than their elders, preferring to communicate in English.
Irish is an officially recognized minority language in Northern Ireland. It received official recognition in Northern Ireland for the first time in 1998 under the Good Friday Agreement. There is a cross-border body that promotes the language in both the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland.
Irish became an official language of the European Union in 2005.
More about Irish.
Irish is a Celtic language, as is Scottish Gaelic, Manx Gaelic (Manx), Welsh, Breton and Cornish. The Gaelic languages come from Old Irish and the other three Celtic languages come from British. There were other Celtic languages spoken on the European Mainland, but they died out around 1,500 years ago. The Celtic languages are believed to have come from Common Celtic, which came from Indo-European itself.
We cannot be certain when Irish first came to Ireland, but many scholars believe that it was here over 2,500 years ago. It is certain that there were other languages spoken here before Irish but, by the start of the Christian era, Irish was spoken all over Ireland and was spreading through Scotland, the west coast of Britain and the Isle of Mann. The Romans called the Gaels Scotti and they eventually spread the Gaelic language throughout most of Scotland.
The oldest remains of Ancient Irish that we have are inscriptions on Ogham stones from the 5th and 6th centuries. Old Irish was first written in the Roman alphabet before the beginning of the 7th century which makes Irish the oldest written vernacular language north of the Alps.
During the Middle Irish period (900-1200 AD) some loanwords came from the Scandinavian language, words like ‘pingin’ (penny), and ‘margadh’ (market), but Scandinavian had little effect on the syntax of the Irish language. This was a period of strife and conflict but, despite that, the Gaelic literary culture never failed and we have many manuscripts that survive from the Middle Irish era.
The Anglo Normans began settling in Scotland at the end of the eleventh century and in Ireland in the last third of the twelfth century. The Anglo Norman conquest started a period of multilingualism in Ireland, but Irish remained in the ascendancy and, gradually, the Normans began to speak Irish. By the start of the sixteenth century most of the people of Ireland were Irish speakers again. Among the words that the Anglo Normans introduced into Irish are ‘giúistís’ (justice), ‘bardas’ (corporation), ‘cúirt’ (court), ‘garsún’ (boy), and many, many more.
1200-1600 are the dates of Classical Modern Irish. This was not the ordinary speech of the period but a cultivated standardized language developed in the lay schools for scholars and poets throughout Ireland and Scotland. The spoken language of the same period is called Early Modern Irish, but the speech of the people underwent many changes from the start to the end of this period.
Although the majority of the people had Irish, English, however, was necessary for administrative and legal affairs. Irish, therefore, never became an administrative language, and the Irish speaking community never achieved political independence again.
The status of Irish as a major language was lost. But Irish continued as the language of the greater part of the rural population and, for a time, of the working classes in towns. From the middle of the eighteenth century, as the penal laws were relaxed, and a greater social and economic mobility became possible for the native Irish, the more prosperous members of the Irish-speaking community began to adopt an Anglicized way of life and to take up English. This increased during and after the Great Famine (1846–1848). The language was on the point of extinction.
At the start of the eighteenth century scholars started to become interested in the language and in its literature. Many people understood that Spoken Irish was declining. Thomas Davis, in 1843, was among those who publicly declared that Irish is a “national language”. This terminology was again used in the constitutions of 1922 and 1937. The Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language, which was established in 1876, managed to gain recognition for Irish at every level of the education system from primary school level to university. In the year 1893 Dubhghlas de hÍde, Eoin Mac Néill, Father Eoghan Ó Gramhnaigh and others established Conradh na Gaeilge, or the Gaelic League. Within a couple of years they managed to create a mass movement of support for the Irish language. A start was made to bringing the grammar of the written language into line with the spoken modern language. A result of these efforts was the Official Standard which the Government of Ireland published in 1958.
The image of the Irish language has changed a great deal in recent years, which is evident by the number of people who speak and learn the language, not only in Ireland but around the world. The Irish language is the language of the community in Gaeltacht regions and the language is also gaining strength in places outside the Gaeltacht. According to the Census of 2006, 1.66 million people in the Republic of Ireland can speak Irish, compared with 1.57 in 2002. According to the 2001 Northern Ireland Census 10.4% claim to have some knowledge of Irish. Surveys have long shown a deep affection towards the Irish language amongst the community all over the country and this is not confined to people who speak Irish.
Celtic tribes arrived on the island between 600 and 150 B.C. Invasions by Norsemen that began in the late 8th century were finally ended when King Brian BORU defeated the Danes in 1014. English invasions began in the 12th century and set off more than seven centuries of Anglo-Irish struggle marked by fierce rebellions and harsh repressions. A failed 1916 Easter Monday Rebellion touched off several years of guerrilla warfare that in 1921 resulted in independence from the UK for 26 southern counties; six northern (Ulster) counties remained part of the UK. In 1949, Ireland withdrew from the British Commonwealth; it joined the European Community in 1973. Irish governments have sought the peaceful unification of Ireland and have cooperated with Britain against terrorist groups. A peace settlement for Northern Ireland is gradually being implemented despite some difficulties. In 2006, the Irish and British governments developed and began to implement the St. Andrews Agreement, building on the Good Friday Agreement approved in 1998. In 2010, the most recent phase of the peace process was implemented with the Hillsborough Castle Agreement, which paved the way for the devolution of justice and policing powers to the province.
Ireland is a small, modern, trade-dependent economy. Ireland was among the initial group of 12 EU nations that began circulating the euro on 1 January 2002. GDP growth averaged 6% in 1995-2007, but economic activity has dropped sharply since the onset of the world financial crisis. Ireland entered into a recession in 2008 for the first time in more than a decade, with the subsequent collapse of its domestic property market and construction industry. Property prices rose more rapidly in Ireland in the decade up to 2007 than in any other developed economy. Since their 2007 peak, average house prices have fallen 47%. In the wake of the collapse of the construction sector and the downturn in consumer spending and business investment, the export sector, dominated by foreign multinationals, has become an even more important component of Ireland’s economy. Agriculture, once the most important sector, is now dwarfed by industry and services. In 2008 the former COWEN government moved to guarantee all bank deposits, recapitalize the banking system, and establish partly public venture capital funds in response to the country’s economic downturn. In 2009, in continued efforts to stabilize the banking sector, the Irish Government established the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) to acquire problem commercial property and development loans from Irish banks. Faced with sharply reduced revenues and a burgeoning budget deficit, the Irish Government introduced the first in a series of draconian budgets in 2009. In addition to across-the-board cuts in spending, the 2009 budget included wage reductions for all public servants. These measures were not sufficient to stabilize Ireland’s public finances. In 2010, the budget deficit reached 32.4% of GDP—the world’s largest deficit, as a percentage of GDP—because of additional government support for the country’s deeply troubled banking sector. In late 2010, the former COWEN government agreed to a $92 billion loan package from the EU and IMF to help Dublin recapitalize Ireland’s fragile banking sector and avoid defaulting on its sovereign debt. Since entering office in March 2011, the new KENNY government has intensified austerity measures to try to meet the deficit targets under Ireland’s EU-IMF program. Ireland has grown slowly since 2011, but managed to reduce the budget deficit to 7.2% of GDP in 2013. In late 2013, Ireland formally exited its EU-IMF bailout program, benefiting from its strict adherence to deficit-reduction targets and success in refinancing a large amount of banking-related debt. GDP (purchasing power parity): $190.4 billion (2013 est.) country comparison to the world: 59
Irish Defense Forces (Oglaigh na h-Eireannn), Permanent Defence Force: Army, Naval Service, Air Corps (2012)
Military service age and obligation: 17-25 years of age for male and female voluntary military service (17-27 years of age for the Naval Service); enlistees 16 years of age can be recruited for apprentice specialist positions; 17-35 years of age for the Reserve Defense Forces (RDF); maximum obligation 12 years (5 years IDF, 7 years RDF); EU citizenship or 5-year residence in Ireland required (2012).
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,179,125 females age 16-49: 1,163,728 (2010 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 977,631 females age 16-49: 965,900 (2010 est.)
Ireland, Iceland, and the UK dispute Denmark’s claim that the Faroe Islands’ continental shelf extends beyond 200 nm
Transshipment point for and consumer of hashish from North Africa to the UK and Netherlands and of European-produced synthetic drugs; increasing consumption of South American cocaine; minor transshipment point for heroin and cocaine destined for Western Europe; despite recent legislation, narcotics-related money laundering—using bureaux de change, trusts, and shell companies involving the offshore financial community—remains a concern.
(End of text/excerpt from the CIA World FactBook 2016.)
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