USE of the Irish language in the Dungannon District is rocketing due to the impassioned work of teachers, educationalists amateur enthusiasts and politicians, it has emerged.
The native language is in such fine fettle that the Dungannon district now boasts the second highest proportion of Irish speakers in Northern Ireland. Almost one in five local people claim to speak some Irish (18 percent), second only to the Newry and Mourne District at 20%.
The extent of the language renaissance was revealed in the latest data released from the 2011 Census.
A total of 10,050 Dungannon residents said they had some ability in Irish.
Language campaigners now believe that the creation of Irish language communities in the local district might be a possibility in the future.
Dungannon Council’s Irish Language Officer Seamus Kilpatrick said there had been an enormous shift in attitudes since the last census in 2001.
The Good Friday Agreement has led to a raft of measures to promote the Irish language, as well as a sea-change in the way Irish is taught in local schools.
Irish medium education in the Dungannon District has also been a big success.
However, hostility to the Irish language still remains.
Last October, DUP politicians accused the council of sending a very bad signal for the Unionist community, after it emerged that a receptionist was greeting callers with “Dia Duit”,
Lord Maurice Morrow said he had been contacted by members of the public who had been answered in Irish when contacting the council.
“I immediately contacted the council for a response and it appears a member of staff took the liberty of addressing callers in Irish, which of course, is not council policy.
“I have been assured this matter has been duly noted. However, this sort of behaviour throws out a very bad signal for the Unionist/Protestant community, who represent over 40% of the borough population.”
It emerged that the receptionist in question was Irish-speaking and had decided to do this on his own initiative.