CLARE’S hopes of gaining bilingual status from the Department of the Gaeltacht have been boosted significantly this week on the back the 2011 National Census of Population report which says that nearly half of the county’s population are able to speak the language – the second highest ranking of any county in Ireland.

The findings, published by the Central Statistics Office as part of the latest bulletin report on last year’s census, called ‘What We Know – A study of education and skills in Ireland’, have revealed that the number of Irish speakers in the county is now running ahead of the average for the rest of Munster.

“A total of 53,853 persons in County Clare, accounting for 48 per cent of the population aged three and over, indicated that they could speak Irish. This compared to 41 per cent for the State as a whole,” a CSO spokesperson has revealed.

The breakdown of these figures has revealed that only Galway, with 51 per cent of its population being able to speak Irish, has a higher ranking than Clare. This means that Clare has a high percentage of its population speaking Irish than Gaeltacht counties such as Kerry and Donegal.

A further breakdown of these Clare figures has revealed that the majority of Irish speakers are females, with 29,145 females proficient in the language as compared to 24,708 males.

Meanwile, the upsurge in knowledge and interest in the language has been reflected in figures which show that there are now Irish speakers in over 60 per cent of households in the county. The figures show that of 42,648 households in Clare, 25,704 of those have Irish speakers in them, a figure which represents 60.3 per cent of households throughout the county.

However, a breakdown of these figures has revealed that only 1,539 people in the county speak the language on a daily basis outside of the education system, a figure that accounts for just 1.4 per cent of the total population aged three and over, compared to the state average of 1.8 per cent.

The largest concentration of Irish speakers is in the county capital of Ennis, with 11,277 of the town area’s population of 25,360 claiming to be speakers of the language. This translates into 44.5 per cent of the population, a figure that represents a boon to local hopes the ‘Inis Dom’ project will see the town granted bilingual status by 2018.

“We have a five-year plan to make Ennis a bilingual town and we think we can do this,” said local language activist, Domhnall Ó Loinsigh when launching the Inis Dom project last year.

“As a town, Ennis would very much be to the fore as an urban community that is promoting Irish. We are very confident that through Irish, something can be done to make Ennis a place apart.

“This is about enhancing the visibility and use of Irish in the town and there is no cost involved. It is also about promoting the cultural image of the town, making it a more attractive place for visitors and as a more attractive shopping destination,” he added.

The second largest number of Irish speakers is located in Shannon, with 3,759 of the town’s population of 10,058 able to speak the language, while third and fourth in the county’s league table of Irish speakers are Kilrush and Sixmilebridge with 966 and 895 respectively.

For more on the Census figures see The Clare People or visit our Digital Edition.

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Joe Ó Muircheartaigh graduated from University College Dublin in 1989 with a degree in history and politics. After completing a Diploma in Journalism at The College of Commerce, Rathmines in 1991, he embarked on a career in journalism. Joe spent four years with Clare FM from 1992 and was with The Clare Champion from 1996 to 2005. He has won two McNamee Awards for GAA journalism and has published two books. Contact Joe on [email protected]

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