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

CSO figures reveal Irish women are better educated than men

Latest census figures reveal that women in Ireland are better educated than men, as 43.2 percent of women aged 15 and over received third-level education in 2016 compared with 40.7 percent of men.

Census figures released last month by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed that 42 percent (1,216,945) of the population aged 15 and over had a third level qualification, compared with just 13.6 percent in 1991.

“This report shows a continuing decline in the numbers of early school leavers and increases in the numbers with third level qualifications,” said Deirdre Cullen, senior statistician with the Central Statistics Office.

Hajar Infographic Education.png
More women in Ireland hold third level degrees than men. Source Hajar Akl

Broken down to age groups, out of those aged between 15 and 39, 56.2 percent of them had a third-level qualification, compared to 18.9 percent of those aged 65 and over.

The counties with the highest rates of completed third-level education were Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown with 61.1 percent, Galway City with 55.2 percent and Dublin City and Fingal, both with 48.7 percent. The counties with the lowest rates were Longford and Wexford, at 32.5 percent.

The figures also show that for people aged twenty, those with parents with higher levels of education were more likely to still be in education. In all, 60.6 percent of all 20-year olds in family units were students in 2016.

And among those whose parents were educated to a maximum of lower secondary level, 44.9 percent were full-time students, increasing to 65.2 percent for those with both parents educated to upper secondary level. For those 20-year olds with both parents having a degree, 87.5 percent were full-time students.

The figures also showed that those with a qualification in Arts had the highest unemployment rate in 2016, at 11.6 percent (down from 17.1 percent in 2011).

Between 2011 and 2016 the unemployment rate fell the most for those with a qualification in Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction, from 15.7 percent to 6 percent. Those with a qualification in Education had the lowest unemployment rate in 2016 at 3.1 percent.

Although more women had third-level education, more men (16,016) had a doctorate (Ph.D.) than women (12,743). The 28,759 people who stated that they had a doctorate level qualification was an increase of 30.9 percent on the 2011 figure, and up 99.5 percent on 2006. There were 23,296 persons at work among this group, while the unemployment rate was 3.4 percent.

By Hajar Akl

Access to music education on the rise

In 2016, then Taoiseach Enda Kenny pledged to have music education accessible to every young person in Ireland within the next five years. That might have seemed over ambitious to some; or to others, simply another case of the government making more false promises.

However, this claim may be proven to have a strong foundation based on recent data.

Since 2010, the goal to achieve national access to music education for young people has been taken on by Music Generation, Ireland’s national music education programme. In 2010, Music Generation began a six year long project to give as many young people as possible across the country access to free performance music education.

The programme, which is co-funded by the Ireland Funds, U2, the Department of Education and local music partnerships has the ultimate goal of ensuring that every child and young person in Ireland has local access to high-quality music education in the form of learning an instrument. The last three years of this plan have proved particularly successful.

2014 saw 26,000 young people participating in Music Generation programmes, a 25% increase from 2013’s 19,500, with 2015’s 38,000 participants representing a near 32% increase on 2014’s figures.

The successes of 2015 saw 38,000 children and young people participating in 99 different tuition programmes in over 640 different centres across the country.

Source: musicgeneration.ie

Perhaps what’s most impressive about Music Generation’s figures to date is that the initial projected target of spreading across twelve counties in the country within six years from 2010 was achieved in mid-2014, eighteen months ahead of schedule, representing a 25% improvement on the projected time that this would take.

Below is the initial projected expansion for the organisation over six years which aimed for a steady albeit slow consecutive growth and its actual geographical growth from 2011 to 2014 when the target was achieved, showing a much quicker expansion than what was initially forecast.

Source: musicgeneration.ie

Commenting on the early achievement of these targets, Aoife Lucey, Communications Manager at Music Generation said: “Successful early-stage implementation of the programme at each phase enabled us to reach those targets ahead of schedule. Throughout the implementation stage each Local Music Education Partnership would have worked closely with partners and stakeholders at all levels, and with the Music Generation National Development Office, to ensure successful implementation.”

As well as providing young people with music education on a national scale, Music Generation has also been responsible for the creation of 350 jobs and employment opportunities for professional musicians and staff alike since its formation.

Evolution of counties reached, source: musicgeneration.ie

Increased expansion into more areas of the country means increased demand for musicians to teach the local young people in performance music education, be it vocals or instrument tuition.

“Job opportunities are allocated based on local need and context, but the bottom line is that setting up centres in hundreds of areas across the country means that thousands of young people who otherwise would not have access to music tuition can now receive it from the professional musicians hired to give them excellent quality teaching,” said Aoife.

Music Generation has since released their strategic plan for 2017 – 2021, propelled by their success so far. The plan is centered around ensuring the programme’s growth, sustainability and quality and aims to expand into more areas of the country through working with new Music Education partnerships and investing in strengthening the existing infrastructure so that continued performance music tuition can be achieved.

By Killian Dowling


No need for €1,000 student fee increase

Calls from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (PER) to increase third level fees by at least €1,000 appear unjustified when recent university figures are taken into account.

University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland’s largest university, reported a surplus of over €20 million for the year ending September 2016, an increase of €2.3 million from 2015.

Furthermore, UCD experienced a €13 million rise in academic fees paid over the course of the year, with the figure rising to €211 million, an increase of 6.5 percent.


What is telling, however, is the figure for state grants and funding. In 2006, that figure stood at over €120 million and was the college’s main source of income, eclipsing academic fees by some €15 million. Ten years on, however, that figure had dwindled to €60 million, less than half of what it was a decade ago.

It is much the same story for DIT and DCU, two of Dublin’s largest colleges. Trinity college, on the other hand, has experienced budget deficits since the economic crash of 2008, but its finances have vastly improved over the past years.

A deficit that stood at €22.5 million in 2013, now stands at €9.4 million. Trinity, like UCD, has experienced drastic cuts to state funding and has seen a 25 percent decrease since 2012 (€58 million to €44 million).

Like UCD, Trinity College has also experienced a huge increase in academic fees, overseeing a 17.5 percent rise since 2012 (€113 million to €133 million).
Both of the above changes are a direct result of the economic downturn; funding for universities was cut annually during the recession, while academic fees were controversially imposed across the board at €3,000.

The Department of Public Expenditure’s newest proposals have been met with widespread resistance from the student body, with protests and demonstrations taking place at the beginning of this academic year and it is easy to see why.

The department argues that there is a funding shortfall for third level education in Ireland, but there only is a shortfall in funding because of cuts implemented by various governments since the recession.

Academic fees are not the issue. According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), there are now 180,000 full time third level students in the country along with 39,000 part-time students, more than there ever has been. Colleges, therefore, have never taken in more money from academic fees than they do at present.

The department estimates that 50 percent of students are either totally or somewhat exempt from paying college fees owing to family income levels. Even so, a €1,000 increase to academic fees would roughly yield an additional €110 million annually for Irish colleges.

Government funding is badly needed, rather than an increase in student fees, and Budget 2018 saw the department pledge an extra €47.5 million to third level funding. An awful lot more is needed, UCD’s funding alone has been cut by more than that in the past decade, but it is a start at the very least.

The Budget also pledged to increase funding by €310 million by 2021, but the government were criticised for an “absence of any specific direct funding to support third level education” by the Irish Federation of University Teachers.

Members of the opposition, including Labour’s Aodhán O Ríordáin, have criticised the “precious little efforts” made by the government to address the funding problem in third level education.

Fine Gael gleefully pointed out during the Rugby World Cup in 2015 that Ireland had the fastest growing economy of any of the nations competing in the tournament. Perhaps it is time they start acting like that is the case and giving back to the Irish taxpayer.

By Shane O’Brien


Number of students receiving grants up almost 19,000 since 2013

The number of third-level students that have received financial grants over the past five years has risen by 18,778 in Ireland.

According to figures provided by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), the number of students that have received financial grants rose from 60,022 in the academic year 2013-2014 to 78,778 in the academic year 2016-2017. That is an increase of 31%.

In the academic year 2013-2014, the number of third-level students that were awarded grants was 73,326, that number drastically increased by over 5,000 to 79,861 students in the year 2014-2015.

For many, the student grant scheme is the only possible way for them to attend university, with student contribution fees currently set at €3,000 per year, more than trebling since 2008.

In 2002, the registration fee rose by 70%, from €396 to €670. This was followed by a further increase to €750 in 2003. Fees gradually built up over the following six years, and jumped from €900 to €1,500 in 2009, and then again to €2,000 in 2010, and are now at the current contribution of €3,000 in 2015.

On top of this €3,000 a year, there are travel costs, accommodation, living costs and books which can add up to a hefty amount for students.

In recent reports by the European Commission, it was found that Irish third-level students pay the second highest fees in Europe, after England, where students pay up to £10,000 a year for tuition.

The idea of a student loans scheme has been put forward in the past, but Taoiseach Leo Varadkar quickly ruled it out.

This proposal of a student loan scheme resulted in thousands of students protesting last year in October, calling for more public investment in third-level education in Ireland.

The Union of Students in Ireland are against this loan scheme, which they said will result in a radical increase in student fees from €3,000 up to €5,000 and could leave students graduating with a debt of at least €20,000.

By Aimee Walsh


10.5% percent of SUSI grants refused in 2017

Just over 90,000 students received a college grant between January 2017 and September 2017 according to figures released by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI).

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that between January 2017 and September 2017, 100,955 students applied for the grant. A total of 10,623 applicants were refused. These applications include two separate academic terms; including the academic year ending 2016/17 and the academic year that has just begun.

SUSI offers funding to eligible students in approved full-time third level education in Ireland.  In some cases, they can also provide funding for students studying outside the state.

Students are assessed on either their parent/guardian’s income if they are living at home and under 23 years of age or their own income if they are over 23 years of age and living alone.

Nineteen-year old Olivia McGrath was one of the 10,623 students who was refused the grant in the last number of months.

Currently in her second year of Communication and Creative Media in Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT), Olivia received the SUSI grant in first year to pay for her college fees.  She did not receive a maintenance grant which helps students pay for extras such as supplies and transport.

DKIT. Source: Chris Kelly

“Both my parents work but nothing fancy,” she said.  “One is a cashier and the other works in a pub. If I want to do something it’s up to me to get it done.”

Olivia was refused the grant in second year as her parents’ gross income was slightly higher than the previous year. She also believes living within 45 kilometres of DKIT made her less likely to receive it.

The college could offer little help and Olivia was at the point where she was considering deferring for a year to work and save money when she found help from an unlikely source.

Her grandmother encouraged her to contact the college chaplain Fr. Allen. After her first meeting, they had agreed on a flexible arrangement where she would receive small amounts of money as she needed it which could be paid back over a “reasonable amount of time” at a very low interstate rate.

“It’s not a widely broadcast service,” she said.  “They aren’t a banking service and can’t give students large amounts of money, but for someone like me who was just on the edge and didn’t want the debt of a large loan it was perfect.”

In cases where grants are refused, Olivia believes that there should be more engagement between the applicant and the grant authority and that cases should be reviewed on an individual basis.  

“There are some things you can’t put on paper and they don’t take that into account. Everyone’s situation is different and I know I’m luckier than some people.”

By Cara Croke and Chris Kelly