Although English is the most widely spoken language in Ireland, the official language is Irish or Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge). It belongs to the Celtic language family’s Goidelic branch. In order to get about in Ireland, you don’t need to know any Irish.
The majority of people understand Irish, but only around 30,000 people speak it as their first language, the majority of whom reside in rural regions known as Gaeltachta. About 40% of people in the Republic (c. 1,500,000) claim to be able to comprehend and speak the language, but some individuals may overstate their proficiency in Irish when speaking with outsiders.
Irish is a compulsory language in Irish schools and is needed for admission to some Irish universities.
On TV and radio, there is some Irish language programming. Irish is linked to Scots Gaelic and is extremely close (but not identical) to it. Only one of the four provinces (Leinster) does not have its own linguistic dialect. The Ulster dialect is the most similar to Scots Gaelic. Some Irish people, however, may take offense if you refer to Irish as “Gaelic,” since this is a misnomer that refers to the whole family of languages, which includes Irish, Manx, and Scots Gaelic. Simply refer to it as “Irish.” It’s known as “Gaeilge” in Irish (Gail-ga).
Tourists who want to learn a few Irish phrases are often duped into learning cursing in Irish while being assured they are learning a greeting or other such phrase.