The amount of people speaking Irish in Ireland saw a slight decline between 2011 and 2016.
The Irish language is still being spoken all across Ireland today, from small rural areas to bigger urban centers.
According to data compiled by Ireland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) in April 2016, the total number of people aged 3 and over in Ireland who could speak Irish was 1,761,420, or 39.8 percent of the country’s population.
This figure, however, is a decrease when compared to data compiled in Ireland's 2011 Census which found that there were 1,774,437 Irish language speakers in Ireland.
The CSO found that in 2016, there were more female Irish language speakers (968,777, or 55 percent) in Ireland than male Irish language speakers (792,643, or 45 percent.)
Fast facts about Irish language speakers in Ireland, as per the 2016 Census:
- 39.8% - The percentage of the population who could speak Irish in 2016 (1,761,420 persons)
- 49% - The percentage of the population of Galway County who could speak Irish in 2016 (84,249 persons)
- 179,317 - The number of persons who could speak Irish in Cork county in 2016 - the highest of all the administrative counties
- 370,116 - The number of persons who could speak Irish in Dublin city and its suburbs in 2016
Read More: What do Ireland’s county names mean?
How often is Irish spoken in Ireland?
Of the 1,761,420 people who reported being able to speak Irish in Ireland’s 2016 Census:
- 586,535 indicated they spoke Irish less often than weekly
- 558,608 indicated they only spoke Irish within the education system
- 418,420 indicated they never spoke Irish
- 111,473 indicated they spoke Irish weekly
- 73,803 indicated they spoke Irish daily
What counties in Ireland speak the most Irish?
According to the 2016 Irish census, Co Galway has the highest percentage of Irish speakers with 49 percent saying they can speak Irish. This is a decrease from the 2011 figure of 51 percent in Co Galway.
Here is the percentage of Irish language speakers in each county of the Republic of Ireland as of April 2016:
- Galway - 48.99
- Clare - 45.89
- Cork - 44.93
- Mayo - 43.86
- Kerry - 43.19
- Tipperary - 42.68
- Roscommon - 41.64
- Limerick - 41.3
- Kilkenny - 40.7
- Waterford - 40.56
- Kildare - 40.2
- Laois - 40.15
- Leitrim - 39.97
- Sligo - 39.93
- Dun Laoghaire - Rathdown - 39.63
- Meath - 38.56
- Westmeath - 37.9
- Monaghan - 37.61
- Offaly - 37.24
- Donegal - 37.09
- Carlow - 37.08
- Wicklow - 36.56
- Longford - 35.92
- Wexford - 35.64
- Cavan - 34.6
- South Dublin - 34.11
- Dublin City - 29.52
What cities in Ireland speak the most Irish?
Ireland’s 2016 Census found that when examining urban areas, Galway City and its suburbs reported the highest rate of Irish speakers with 41.4 percent.
The lowest rate of Irish language speakers in an Irish city was Dublin City and its suburbs, which was only 32.8 percent.
Percentage of population who reported being able to speak Irish as per Irish city:
- Rural Area - 44.6 percent
- Galway City and suburbs - 41.4 percent
- Cork City and suburbs - 40.9 percent
- Limerick City and suburbs - 37.6 percent
- Waterford City and suburbs - 34.1 percent
- Dublin City and suburbs - 32.8 percent
Percentage of the population who can speak Irish in Ireland's towns:
- Towns 10,000 + - 36.5 percent
- Towns 5,000 - 9,999 - 37.2 percent
- Towns 1,500 - 4,999 - 36.3 percent
- Towns 1,000 - 1,499 - 37.9 percent
- Towns under 1,000 - 39.8
Irish language speakers in Ireland’s Gaeltacht regions
In Ireland, the Gaeltacht boundaries are defined by The Gaeltacht Areas Orders, 1956–1982, and are in the counties of Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Meath, Mayo, and Waterford.
According to the 2016 Census, there were 96,090 people living in Ireland’s Gaeltacht areas. Of that population, 63,664 (66.3 percent) reported that they could speak Irish. This is a decrease of 2,574 people from the 2011 Census data.
The proportion of people in Gaeltacht areas who report being able to speak Irish has shrunk from 68.5 percent in 2011 to 66.3 percent in 2016. The Census data found that of those who reported they could speak Irish in Gaeltacht areas:
- 36,794 spoke Irish less often, never, or spoke Irish in the educations only, or did not state the frequency they spoke Irish
- 20,586 spoke Irish daily
- 6,284 spoke Irish on a weekly basis
The population of the Gaeltacht area in Galway County had the largest proportion of daily Irish speakers at 29.0 percent, while Galway City had the least at 4.3 percent.
The Gaeltacht area in Cork reflected the highest proportion of weekly Irish speakers with 11.7 percent.
Where in Ireland is Irish spoken the most on a daily basis?
Towns with the highest number of daily Irish speakers:
Towns with the highest percentage of daily Irish speakers:
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