The Irish (Gaeilge) language, a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, also known as Gaelic or Irish Gaelic, originates in Ireland and is historically spoken by the Irish. It is the first language of a small minority of Irish people, and a second language of a much larger group. Irish is a constitutional national and first official language of the Republic of Ireland, and is an official minority language in Northern Ireland. It is also in the list of the official languages of the European Union. The public body Foras na Gaeilge deals with the promotion of the language throughout the island of Ireland.
Irish remained the predominant language of the Irish people throughout most of their history, and its use was expanded to other regions, mostly Scotland and the Isle of Man. It boasts the oldest vernacular literature in Western Europe.
The increasing influence of the English state had a significant impact on the development and use of the Irish language. Elizabethan officials deemed Irish as undesirable language to use and considered it a threat to the English rule in Ireland. The use of Irish began to decline under English rule since the 17th century. In the late 19th century following the Great Famine of 1845–52 when from 20–25% of the population of Ireland either emigrated or died, the number of Irish speakers plummeted dramatically. By the end of British rule, less than 15% of the national population spoke Irish, being the minority. These days Irish speakers still remain in the minority, even in areas officially designated as the Gaeltacht.
In the beginning of the 21st century, there have been from 20,000 to 80,000 native speakers. According to the 2006 census, 85,000 people of the Republic spoke Irish daily outside school, and 1.2 million claimed using it occasionally in or out of educational institutions. In 2011, the number of speakers increased to 94,000 and 1.3 million, respectively. Several thousand people speak the Irish language in Northern Ireland, while active speakers constitute from 5 to 10 per cent of Ireland's population.