The Irish language has been used for thousands of years, and it has left an indelible mark on the land: most Irish placenames, in the original Irish form, usually reflect physical features of the location. The language most spoken in Ireland is, however, English, with Irish being used as an everyday language by fewer than 100,000 people, some of whom live in the Gaeltachtaí (official Irish-speaking areas), but most of whom are distributed throughout the country. Baile Átha Cliath (Dublin) and Béal Feirste (Belfast) have relatively large and active Irish-speaking communities, while Irish-medium schooling (school taught in Irish) is popular everywhere. A further 1.5 million people, in the Republic of Ireland alone, claim to speak the language to some level, with about 100,000 additional speakers in the North. Of course, there are many people peppered around the world, especially in North America, with excellent Irish language skills.
Even though the Irish language is regrettably not used much as a general administration tool by the Irish state itself, its official status has improved over the last ten years or so. An Official Languages Act in the Republic guarantees the right of Irish speakers to be accommodated in their own language by the State, and the language itself has achieved official working language status in the European Union (EU), two significant milestones in the pursuit of a higher status. There are hopes that in Northern Ireland, where there is a very active Irish language community, a language act will also be implemented, such as exists in Great Britain for Welsh and Scottish Gaelic. . .