Irish (Gaeilge), also called Irish Gaelic, is a language native to Ireland. It belongs to the Goidelic branch of Celtic languages together with Scottish Gaelic and Manx Gaelic, now theoretically extinct. Irish is the national language of the Republic of Ireland, and is recognized as a minority language in Northern Ireland. It is also one of the official languages of the European Union. Today, Irish is only spoken by a minority of the Irish population living in remote areas called the Gaeltacht. Although approximately one-third of the Irish population claims to have some knowledge of Irish.
Before the 17th century, Irish was still a majority language on the Island of Ireland. After that time, however, the language was slowly replaced by English due to British dominance and suppression of the native culture. The number of speakers dropped drastically after the Great Famine of the 1840s which resulted in a great loss of population due to starvation, illness, and emigration especially from areas with a predominantly Irish-speaking population. Today, only 140,000 people speak the language on a daily basis. Since the establishment of the Republic of Ireland, the Irish government has promoted the Irish language, and nowadays, the language is taught in most schools in the Irish Republic.
Although a minority language today, Irish played a significant role in Early Medieval literature and is sometimes counted with the Classical languages such as Greek and Latin. While culture seemed to be lost in Continental Europe following the fall of the Roman Empire, Irish literature flourished and continued to do so until the 1600s. These days, Irish people are still very proud of their language and consider it important for the Irish identity to preserve the language.
Only a few Hollywood movies feature the Irish language and genuine Irish scenery:
- The Quiet Man (filmed nearly entirely in Ireland, and is the most famous Irish film)
- Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959)
- The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)
- The Guard (2011)