Northern Ireland

Similar numbers speak Irish or Ulster-Scots languages

Irish language protest
Image caption There have been calls for an Irish language act in Northern Ireland

The proportion of people in Northern Ireland with some knowledge of either the Irish or the Ulster-Scots language is almost the same.

That is according to new statistics published by the Department for Communities (DfC).

They suggest that 14% of people had some knowledge of Ulster-Scots, while 15% had some knowledge of Irish.

But only 4% of people spoke either language regularly at home to talk to their family or housemates.

The figures are based on questions about language use asked in the continuous household survey.

The 5,677 respondents over 16 years old who took part in 2017-18 were asked a series of questions about their knowledge and use of Irish and Ulster-Scots.

The numbers of those who said they were fluent in either language were relatively small.

While 4% of people said they could understand simple sentences in Irish, only one in every 100 said they could understand programmes broadcast in Irish on radio or TV.

Similarly, while 4% said they could understand simple sentences in Ulster-Scots, only one in 50 people said they could understand Ulster-Scots radio and TV programmes.

Image caption Ulster-Scots is a variant of Scots and a number of dictionaries have been published

Catholics were much more likely to use Irish, while Protestants were more likely to use Ulster-Scots.

One in five Protestants said they had some knowledge of Ulster-Scots, compared with 7% of Catholics.

Almost three in 10 Catholics said they had some knowledge of Irish compared with only 2% of Protestants.

Among those who gave their religious background as other or none, 12% said they had knowledge of Ulster-Scots and 9% said they had knowledge of Irish.

The figures for both languages were similar to surveys carried out by DfC in previous years.

A number of parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly have called for an Irish language act, along with groups who promote the use of the language.

That has been echoed by experts from the Council of Europe, which aims to uphold human rights across the continent.

However, both the Democratic Unionist Party and Ulster Unionist Party have expressed opposition to stand-alone legislation on the Irish language.

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