main causes for the decline of spoken Irish (according to Hindley)

Hindley (page 143) talks of "the fundamental problem from which most others stem, namely the grave lack of numbers and the lack of any substantial territorial base in which Irish has unchallenged dominance". The main subsidiary points are:

  1. By far the most important reason is economic. The remaining Gaeltachaí do not contain a single large town. They are small rural communities, dependent on English-speaking towns for employment, shopping, entertainment, health care, education, etc. It is impossible to be a banker, lawyer, University lecturer, computer programmer, advertising executive or to pursue any other well-remunerated career without using English as one's working language. Social and economic pressures force people to speak English, even if they would rather use Irish. Gaeltacht parents know that their children must emigrate to English-speaking Ireland or English-speaking countries abroad if they are to get good jobs. Therefore English is absolutely essential, while Irish is absolutely useless. In fact (so Hindley says) many still associate Irish with poverty and regard it as an obstacle to social and economic advancement for their children. Parents are not prepared to sacrifice their children's welfare to the ideal of Irish revival, and therefore do not raise them with Irish as their first language.

  2. Movement of English-speakers into the Gaeltacht. Where successful industries have been introduced, these have helped undermine the language. Even Gaeilgeoirí returning to take advantage of the new opportunities invariably bring English-speaking families with them. Commuters from towns like Galway moving into the scenic Gaeltacht, holiday makers, visiting friends and relatives from English-speaking areas, all help undermine Irish.

  3. Small numbers of habitual Irish-speakers means a small market for books, periodicals, TV and radio programs etc., and small numbers of people talented enough to produce them. Also small numbers of potential marriage partners (mixed marriages rarely produce children who have Irish as their first language).

  4. Failure to revive Irish in the Galltacht created renewed pessimism about the future of the language and turned the Gaeltachtaí into "fishbowls" from which people wanted to escape. Irish-speakers in the towns are too thinly spread to constitute a true language community, and rarely succeed in passing Irish from one generation to another. On this point Shaping the Future says pxxiv "Outside of the Gaeltacht only about one-quarter of those who grew up in Irish language homes use Irish with the same intensity in their current homes".

Most fundamentally he says:

p253 " is impossible to find an example of a language surviving as a normal daily social medium once full bilingualism has been attained by all its native speakers. Full bilingualism removes any need for a lesser language and thereafter it becomes the property of scholars, a priesthood, or some other special group...".

p196 "The death of the last old Irish monoglots, assumed to have occurred since around 1960, means that Irish is no longer necessary to talk to anyone. Given that learning any language demands effort, this is a serious loss of natural incentive & is regarded by many as a fatal step towards language death".

p146 "scarcely anyone remains to whom it is necessary to speak Irish and the great majority who can speak it speak English better".

Luxembourgish appears to be under no threat, although its speakers are trilingual with French and German. However, the different languages are used for different purposes or as linguists describe it, for different domains of use (see the section on Bilingualism).