Irish language in Northern Ireland

From Academic Kids

The Irish language is a minority language in Northern Ireland, known in Irish as Tuaisceart Éireann or na sé chontae (the six counties).

Irish received official recognition in Northern Ireland for the first time in 1998 under the Good Friday Agreement. A cross-border body known as Foras na Gaeilge was established to promote the language in both Northern Ireland and the Republic, taking over the functions of Bord na Gaeilge.

The UK government has ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in respect to Irish in Northern Ireland.

The last native speakers of varieties of Irish native to what is now Northern Ireland, namely those in Armagh and on Rathlin Island, died in the early 1900s. The Irish language has traditionally been regarded with suspicion by Unionists in Northern Ireland, who associate it with the Republic of Ireland in the south, and more recently, with the republican movement in Northern Ireland itself. Many republicans in Northern Ireland, including Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, learned Irish while in prison. The language was not taught in Protestant schools, and public signs in Irish were effectively banned under laws by the Parliament of Northern Ireland, which stated that only English could be used. This was not formally lifted by the British Government until the early 1990s.

Six families in Belfast established a Gaeltacht area in Belfast in the late 1960s and opened Bunscoil Phobal Feirste in 1970 as the first Irish-medium school in Northern Ireland. Several Irish language pre-schools and primary schools are now thriving and there are Irish language secondary schools known as Méanscoileanna in both Belfast and Derry. An Irish-language daily newspaper called ('day') is now published. BBC Radio Ulster began broadcasting a nightly half-hour programme, called Blas ('taste'), in Irish in the early 1980s, and BBC Northern Ireland broadcast its first television programme in Irish in the early 1990s.

The Ultach Trust was also established, with a view to broadening the appeal of the language among Protestants.

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