Irish (Gaeilge), also known as Irish Gaelic or Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of the population. Irish enjoys constitutional status as the national and first official language of the Republic of Ireland. It is an official language of the European Union and an officially recognised minority language in Northern Ireland.
Irish was the predominant language of the Irish people for most of their recorded history, and they brought it with them to other countries, notably Scotland and the Isle of Man, where it gave rise to Scottish Gaelic and Manx. It has the oldest vernacular literature in Western Europe.
Elizabethan officials viewed the use of Irish unfavourably, as being a threat to all things English in Ireland. Its decline began under English rule in the seventeenth century. The latter part of the nineteenth century saw a dramatic decrease in the number of speakers, beginning after the Great Famine of 1845–1852 (where Ireland lost 20–25% of its population either to emigration or death). Irish-speaking areas were hit especially hard. By the end of British rule, the language was spoken by less than 15% of the national population. Since then, Irish speakers have been in the minority except in areas collectively known as the Gaeltacht. Ongoing efforts have been made to preserve, promote and revive the language by both the state and independent individuals and organisations, but with mixed results.
Around the turn of the 21st century, estimates of native speakers ranged from 20,000 to 80,000 people. In the 2006 census for the Republic, 85,000 people reported using Irish as a daily language outside of the education system, and 1.2 million reported using it at least occasionally in or out of school. In the 2011 Census, these numbers had increased to 94,000 and 1.3 million, respectively. There are also thousands of Irish speakers in Northern Ireland, and a comparable number of fluent speakers in the United States and Canada. Historically the island of Newfoundland had a dialect of Irish Gaelic, called Newfoundland Irish. (Wikipedia)