Fewer Irish speakers according to Census 2016

Recent figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in November this year show that the number of people speaking Irish is declining.

Information gathered during the 2016 census revealed that as of April 2016, 1,761,420 people (39.8% of the population), aged 3 and over, said that they could speak Irish.


Out of the total amount of Irish speakers recorded, 968,777 were female and 792,643 were men. Compared to 2011, there has been a drop of 0.7% (-13,017 people).


However, of the 39.8% of people who stated they are able to speak in Irish, one in four (23.8%) of them admitted to never using it, while a further 558,608 (31.7%) expressed that they haven’t used in daily conversation or for any other reason, since leaving school.

Of the percentages of people able to speak Irish, the highest numbers were recorded in Galway County at 49%. Clare closely followed with 45.9%, with Corky County (44.9%) and Mayo (43.9%) shortly behind.

The lowest percentages were found in Dublin City at 29.2%, followed by Louth and South Dublin, both at 34.1% and Cavan at 34.6%.

The number of those who say they speak Irish less often than weekly stood at 586,535 people (33.3%) compared to the lesser percent of people who attest to speaking the language on a weekly basis, (6.3%) or 111,473 people.

While the number of daily Irish speakers stood at 73,803, representing 1.7% of the population. This was a decline of 3,382 (4.4%) on 2011.




20.2% of the total 73,803 lived in Dublin City and suburbs. This was an increase of 674 people (4.7%) since 2011. Cork, Galway and Limerick together accounted for 6,034 daily Irish speakers (8.2%).

Outside of these cities, the largest absolute numbers of daily speakers were living in An Bun Beag-Doirí Beaga (771), followed by Letterkenny (525) and Swords (487).

Daily Irish speakers in the Gaeltacht areas of Galway County and Donegal made up almost three quarters of all daily Irish speakers in Gaeltacht areas, with 9,445 (45.9%) in Galway and 5,929 (28.8%) in Donegal.

By Megan Walsh

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