A new report has found that children who are native Irish speakers have better linguistic competency in English than in Irish.
The research was carried out by an Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta (COGG), an agency of the Department of Education which provides supports to Irish schools around the country.
Researchers examined the linguistic ability of 50 children, aged between seven and 12, whose home language is exclusively Irish.
They found that their competence in English significantly surpassed that in Irish.
There are several reasons for this, but the pervasive nature of the English language in social, sporting and cultural contexts plays a significant part.
The earlier children are exposed to bilingualism, the more their Irish is compromised.
The research found that children who attended schools with English speaking pupils had the lowest levels of competence in Irish.
In addition, a decline in the number of young people using Irish in Gaeltacht areas is having a knock-on effect on the way in which the language is being used for everyday communication by children.
The report's authors argue that this needs to be addressed to safeguard the Irish language.
It is estimated there are now fewer than 1,000 children who are native Irish speakers in Gaeltacht area primary schools.
The report recommends that the State and school patrons take steps to provide necessary supports for children who are native speakers.
Measures to promote reading are among those suggestions.
It is felt that literacy in Irish provides a good basis for cognitive development and could strengthen linguistic ability.
Parents and teachers are being encouraged to work towards the development of social networks that would allow children to fully function through Irish and use the language as much as possible, particularly in home and recreational settings.
The report, 'Analysis of Bilingual Competence: Language Acquisition among young people in the Gaeltacht', is being launched in Dublin this morning.