This Wikibook is here to help you learn Irish (Gaeilge), also sometimes called Irish Gaelic outside of Ireland. (For the wikibook on Scottish Gaelic, also known as Gaelic, click here. For that 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 with the Norman invasions, followed by 900 years of foreign rule, 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 in 1921, there have been numerous programs by the Irish government to bring Irish back as the spoken language of the country.