Summer language courses in the Gaeltacht have been cancelled, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The decision, announced by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht this evening, will be a significant blow to rural communities along the west coast, which would usually be preparing to welcome thousands of second level students at this time of year. 

Around 600 families usually welcome students into their homes at locations around the country each summer. 

The majority of courses are offered in Counties Galway and Donegal. But students also travel to Mayo, Kerry, Waterford, Meath and Cork.

Scéim na bhFoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge - the Irish language learners scheme - is overseen by the Department, which works with households accommodating students. 

In a statement this evening, it said that following consultation with health authorities, no Irish language courses will be run this year.

A number of schools had already signalled that they would not offer classes, as a result of the public health emergency. 

The Department will make contact with Gaeltacht households involved in the coming days and has waived a requirement for them to submit new safety documentation required under the terms of the scheme.