Ranafast Gaeltacht in Donegal fights Irish language decline

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Media captionGaeltachts, such as Ranafast, are areas where the bulk of the population speak the Irish language, as Kevin Sharkey reports

One of the foremost Irish-speaking (Gaeltacht) communities in Ireland is vowing to protect the future of the Irish language.

The Ranafast Gaeltacht in west Donegal is home to hundreds of visiting Irish-language students from Northern Ireland each summer.

The latest generation of students have come to the college this summer against the backdrop of an official report earlier this year, that suggested Irish will no longer be the primary language in any Gaeltacht community in 10 years.

The report was commissioned by Údarás na Gaeltachta, the body that oversees economic development in Irish-speaking areas of the Republic of Ireland.

It found that spoken Irish in the Gaeltacht - areas where the bulk of the population speak the language - is becoming confined to academic settings.

The research was based on Irish census figures for 2006 and 2011.

Image caption Students from Northern Ireland have been attending summer lessons at Coláiste Bhríde

It said that social use of Irish in the Gaeltacht is declining at an even more rapid rate than predicted in their last report in 2007.

Of the 155 electoral divisions in the Gaeltacht, only 21 are communities where Irish is spoken on a daily basis by 67% or more of the population.

The families who host the visiting students in the area have vowed to defend the language against any future threat.


Homeowner (Bean an Tí) Caitlín Ní Dhubhchaín said: "There are people that will not let that happen, we won't let it happen.

"The Irish language will never stop here in Gaeltacht areas and as kids are growing up, they're now being passionate. So, what we love, they love, and their kids will love.

"At the end of the day, it's not a hard language to carry and we won't let the Irish language die."

Image caption Ranafast Gaeltacht residents who host visiting students have pledged to keep the language alive
Image caption Many generations of Irish language students have passed through the doors of Coláiste Bhríde

The threat to the language in Gaeltacht areas comes at a time when there is growing interest in Irish speaking elsewhere, including Northern Ireland.

Christina Ni Géidigh, who is a young Irish language teacher from the area, is passionate about her native language and said: "It's a shame that it's actually coming to that, that people elsewhere are so enthusiastic.

"They're buzzing to learn Irish, and then here there is such a blasé approach to the language."

At the Irish language college, Coláiste Bhríde in Ranafast (Rann na Feirste) Gearóid Ó Murchu said government cuts are partly to blame.

"We've had successive governments, and this is going back to the time when we lost our sovereignty, for want of a better term, with the economic process," he said.

"They began to pull what they described as the low-hanging fruit - language was placed in that category.

"They withdrew grants to colleges such as this to develop the languages.

"I'm now appealing to government, I'm appealing to whoever will be in our next government, to support the people who live in the Gaeltacht, those people who have remained loyal not just to Gaelic games but to the Gaelic culture, to the Gaelic tradition and more importantly to the Irish language."

BBC Radio Ulster Irish language programme Blas has been reporting from the summer colleges.

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