This Wikibook is here to help you learn Irish (Gaeilge), also called Gaelic. (Not to be confused with Scottish Gaelic, which is also sometimes called Gaelic, click the link for that wikibook. For the one on Manx Gaelic, click here.)
Irish Gaelic is spoken as a daily language by around 60,000 people living in the 'Gaeltacht' or Irish-speaking areas of Ireland. According to the Irish census, over 1.5m people in Ireland can speak it and over 300,000 use it daily. Irish is also spoken by a number of people in countries which accepted lots of Irish immigrants. The 2000 US census returns included 25,870 U.S. residents who speak Irish Gaelic at home.
Irish is a Celtic language with over 1,500 years of written history. It was an important religious language in the early middle ages because of the importance of Irish monks in learning and religion in Europe. It began a gradual decline around the 11th century with the Norman invasions, where it was condemned as a second-class language and replaced by French and shortly afterward by English as the language of administration and politics.
Since Independence of what became the Republic of Ireland in 1921, there have been numerous programs by Irish governments to bring Irish back as the main spoken language of the country. Also in Northern Ireland, there is some teaching of the language and presence on public media. These programs have however failed to prevent or substantially reduce the decline of Irish and the language is considered extremely endangered.