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Sign on the N56 reminding travellers that they are in the Donegal Gaeltacht - Geograph - 3249648.jpg
A sign on the N56 in County Donegal informing travellers that this road is passing through the Gaeltacht
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The Gaeltacht areas

The Gaeltacht is the officially-defined area in Ireland where Irish is considered the dominant language. Major roads running through parts of the Gaeltacht include the N56 in County Donegal, the M6 and N59 in County Galway and the N86 in County Kerry. Within the Gaeltacht, the majority of road signs are only in Irish.

There have been concerns raised that the Irish language is in decline and that certain parts of the Gaeltacht do not truly have a majority where Irish is the main language used. It has been estimated that by 2050, the Gaeltacht may have ceased to exist. While there is support for retaining and growing knowledge of Irish, local businesses have complained about confusion from tourists and non-Irish speakers as road signs have no appropriate translation.


Since 2005, Ordnance Survey Ireland have begun a policy of only displaying places in the Gaeltacht in Irish. Large-scale maps immediately phased out English names, with smaller-scale editions following later. As a result of the Placenames (Ceantair Ghaeltachta) Order 2004, the English equivalents no longer have any legal standing and should not appear on any official maps.


An Irish-only distance sign on the R259 in the County Donegal Gaeltacht

Unlike other parts of Ireland, where place names and text on roads signs are bilingual, in the Gaeltacht they are only displayed in Irish, even in areas outside of it. A limited exception (such as on the R336 west of Galway) is where a place outside of the Gaeltacht is mentioned, in which case the English can be displayed as well. Some Irish that is normally used in the Gaeltacht can be seen in bilingual areas too; for example, Géill Slí is seen (instead of "Yield") in various parts of County Waterford. Older road signs in the Gaeltacht, such as those present when T and L roads existed, were bilingual, but later removed or plated over with an Irish-only variant.

A further concern is significant areas of the Gaeltacht are popular with tourists, who are unlikely to speak Irish and hence not understand the local signs. While Irish is the official language of the Republic and taught at schools, it is only spoken natively by about 2% of the population, and its use in Northern Ireland has been deprecated. A specific example given is Dingle; as it is in the Gaeltacht, the only name appearing on signs should be the Irish Daingean Uí Chúis. However, an exception has been made for the benefit of non-native speakers, and the English version does appear along the N86 outside Tralee. Councils have complained that Claregalway, which lies on the N83 (former N17), is only signposted as Baile Chláir from the M6. As well as the potential for confusing long-distance travellers, the correct name is Baile Chláir na Gaillimhe, which would help more people identify the English equivalent.[1]

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (Bonneagar Iompair Éireann) is responsible for deciding the language to go on signs, and has Irish variants for them for use in the Gaeltacht. This includes equivalents on signs such as "Toll" (seen on motorways) which are unlikely to appear in the Gaeltacht as it is predominantly in rural and mountainous west coast areas. The STOP sign was, for a while, named STAD in the Gaeltacht. However, it was subsequently discovered that the former name is used in numerous non-English speaking countries, such as France, and therefore it might not be lawful, and the use of the Irish name was reversed.

The Gaeltacht is not recognised in Northern Ireland. Historically, parts of County Tyrone and the County Antrim coast had a significant Irish speaking population as late as 1925 and would have qualified. Though there are still areas of Irish speakers in Northern Ireland, such as the Gaeltacht Quarter along Falls Road in Belfast, with shops and buildings signed in Irish, official government policy is still to use English only on road signs.


The following places in the Gaeltacht are usually only signed in Irish:

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Sign on the N56 reminding travellers that they are in the Donegal Gaeltacht - Geograph - 3249648.jpgR259 Gaeltacht.jpg
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