Clare Island off the coast of County Mayo may become a new testing ground for the reintroduction of the Irish language.

Fine Gael’s shadow spokesman on the Gaeltacht Affairs, Frank Feighan, has argued that a more proactive campaign will be required if the 20-year Strategy for the Irish Language to increase the number of speakers from 87,000 to 250,000 is to be successful.

Feighan said after his recent visit to the island that he was struck by its suitability for a pilot project on the Irish language, since it is situated between the gaeltacht (Irish speaking) areas of Achill island and Connemara.

Part-time island resident and Professor of Education at the University of Gavle in Sweden, Doctor Peter Gill agrees with  Feighan. He refers to the Royal Irish Academy’s New Survey of Clare Island, launched by former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Charles Haughey in 1991.

Gill told the press: 'In the new survey, it is remarkable that more Irish placenames of the fields and rocks, coves and crannies were recorded than in the original.'

'Under the surface of the visible culture is the invisible one,' Gill said. 'This has been clearly shown recently with the resurgence of traditional music and dancing and singing on the island. For a myriad of reasons, the island is a perfect laboratory to reintroduce the language. The parameters of the project can be easily defined and its progress monitored,' Peter Gill added.

Clare Island