Urban Gaeltacht Area Proposed for Galway City

Galway City Council is set to examine the possibility of introducing an ‘urban gaeltacht’ area into the city. The proposal is for a modestly sized housing estate of approximately 20 houses, which would be available for sale exclusively to Irish language speakers.

The proposal to amend the draft City Development Plan 2017-2023 was made by Cllr Cathal Ó Conchúir at a city council meeting which convened this week. The draft will soon be available to view through public display.

Cllr Ó Conchúir said at the council meeting that the Gaeltacht Act 2012 provides for the designation of such areas, and that similar initiative are already under way in Clondalkin and Belfast. A designated Gaeltacht language planning area for Galway would comprise a small estate of “maybe 20 houses”, he added.

The proposal received great support from members of the Galway City Council. The next step will be for the council to carry out investigations to see how feasible the plan is; including any legal or planning constraints. Cllr Ó Conchúir said that he also received huge support for the proposal from the general public.

“There is a very high percentage of Irish speakers living in Galway city, people who work in the Gaeltacht and general area. They are totally in favour of such a project. They want to live in urban areas but also want to live through Irish day to day,” said Cllr Ó Conchúir.

“One of the failings of the Irish language is that it is predominantly seen as a rural language. We need to develop the language in the cities and towns if we want to bring it ahead.

“This would be to facilitate families who want to rear their children through the medium of Irish, and to use Irish as an everyday language within the estate,” Cllr Ó Conchúir added.

Galway city already contains a number of areas which officially lie within the Gaeltacht, including parts of Tirellan Heights, Menlo, Knocknacarran and parts of Barna. Cllr Ó Conchúir said that one possible site for the newly proposed Gaeltacht area is council owned land in Knocknacarra. His hope is that the estate could be in place as soon as 2020, allowing it to be part of the Galway 2020 city of culture bid.

“If we are realistic about being a true bilingual city then we need to be looking at different ideas from the norm. There is no urbanised centre in this part of Ireland that actually has an Irish speaking community, Galway should be the first to change that,” he added.

Belfast took on the idea of an urban Gaeltacht area in 2002. The Gaeltacht Quarters in West Belfast is located in the area surrounding Falls Road. The areas not only helps promote the language but also provides tourist attractions associated with it, as well as Irish speaking schools and cultural events.

Cllr Ó Conchúir sees the 20 house proposal as only the beginning: “A starting point of 20 homes with an average family size of four people, gives us an urban gaeltacht of 80 people. That is a good start, there are lots of gaeltacht areas where you’d have to drive quite a distance to find 80 people. I’ve been inundated with calls from Gaelgoirs who tell me they are interested in this,” he said.

The draft City Development Plan will be available for viewing in the New Year. The public will have until mid-March to make submissions on it.

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