Irish Language Data Points (and Fun Facts)

The two official languages of the Republic of Ireland are Irish and English. Irish is a Goidelic language (Gaelic) spoken as a first language by approximately 74,000 people in Ireland (2016), and as a second language by over 1.7 million. Irish has been an official language of the European Union since 2007.

Here is a collection of other Irish language data points and tips to help you on your global journey:

  • Promoting the language. Less than 10% of the population speak Irish regularly outside of the education system. The Irish government has implemented a 20-year strategy to preserve and promote the language.
  • Trading partners. Ireland’s major exports include several food items such as potatoes and beef. They also export large amounts of zinc, machinery and pharmaceuticals. The United States accounts for 20% of Ireland’s exports and the United Kingdom accounts for 38% of the country’s imports. (Source:
  • Clinical trials. There are 1,355 clinical trials currently registered in Ireland. (Source:
  • Most pharma patents. According to DrugPatentWatch, the pharmaceutical companies with the greatest patent coverage in Ireland are: Apotex Technologies, Pfizer, Gilead, Gilead Sciences Inc, Mylan, Shire Orphan Therap, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis. 
  • Key player. The Enterprise Europe Network cites Ireland as the top European location for international pharmaceutical investment. Nine out of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies have a presence in Ireland. 

Fun Facts:

  • National emblem. The Celtic cross and shamrock are both associated with Ireland, but the national symbol is actually a harp. Ireland is the only country in the world that has a musical instrument its national symbol.
  • Fly the flag. Ireland’s flag has three colors: green, orange and white. The green represents Irish nationalism, the orange represents those who followed William of Orange and the white stripe in the middle symbolizes peace between both.
  • What’s in a name? Many Irish surnames start with “Mac” or “O” which means “son of” and “grandson of” in Gaelic, respectively.
  • Irish folklore. Leprechauns are tiny men who are believed to have buried pots of gold throughout Ireland. According to Irish legends, people lucky enough to find a leprechaun and capture him can barter his freedom for his treasure.
  • Scary stories. The story of Dracula is said to have been inspired by the Irish legend of Abhartach. Bram Stoker was Irish born and raised, and learned the legend of Abhartach when he was young. (Source:
  • Unsinkable. The Titanic was built in Belfast, Northern Island.
  • Natural wonders. There are three World Heritage Sites on the island: the Brú na Bóinne, Skellig Michael and the Giant’s Causeway.

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