Written Answers. - Irish Language.

Wednesday, 24 March 1999

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 502 No. 4

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  67.  Mr. O'Shea  Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   his views on whether the information extracted in relation to the Irish language in the 1996 census of population is highly subjective and of limited value; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8527/99]

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  68.  Mr. O'Shea  Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   the pro posals, if any, the Central Statistics Office has to carry out qualitative research in the matter of the number of Irish speakers in the population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8528/99]

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 and 68 together.

A new question on the Irish language was included in the 1996 Census of Population. The formulation of the question was as follows: Can the person speak Irish?

Yes ? No ?

If Yes, does the person speak Irish?

Daily ? Less often ?
Weekly ? Never ?

The new version of the question marked a major departure from the version used in previous census since 1961. The version used in those years asked respondents to write “Irish only”, “Irish and English”, “Read but cannot speak Irish” or to leave blank as appropriate. Both questions refer to the population aged three years of age and over.

The new version of the question was introduced following pilot testing in 1993 and had the support of the then Roinn na Gaeltachta, the Department of Education and Bord na Gaeilge. It is generally accepted as being superior to the previous version because the layout makes it easier for respondents to answer the question and for the CSO to process the completed replies.

Moreover, the additional information on frequency of using Irish was not available previously. The published information from the 1996 census has been widely used and provides a valuable input to policy formulation in the Irish language sphere.

Because the Census of Population involves self-enumeration, the questions on the census form have to be as simple and straightforward as possible. While the question of necessity, involve a subjective assessment, the CSO is satisfied that, given the clear language used in the questions, the data obtained gives an accurate reflection of the incidence and frequency of use of the Irish language.

Qualitative research would entail a specialist survey with interviewers trained in assessing linguistic competence. The CSO currently has no plans to conduct such research.


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