Gaeltarra Éireann (Irish pronunciation: [ˈɡeːl̪ˠt̪ˠaɾˠa ˈeːɾʲən̪ˠ], meaning "Gaelic Coal-tar of Ireland") was an Irish state industrial development agency set up in 1957 specifically for the Gaeltacht, the Irish speaking areas of Ireland. Gaeltarra Éireann followed on from the dedicated government department that had been initiated to coordinate Gaeltacht affairs when the new boundaries were drawn up for the reduced size Gaeltacht in 1956.
Gaeltarra's approach to the task at hand was centered on the belief that there had to be some sort of an urban focus in the Gaeltacht. Something that would attract inward industrial investment and keep young people in the area. It created two major industrial estates, one at Na Doirí Beaga in northwestern County Donegal, and another around An Spidéal in southwestern County Galway. Initially, this was controversial, as Croithlí (Donegal) and Tuar Mhic Éadaigh (Mayo) already had successful industries, and were established economic bases. Gaeltarra Éireann stated that it picked these two locations as they were, according to the census, the strongest districts linguistically (in terms of Irish), and they sought to "raise the flag" as it were and possibly encourage other people in slightly weaker Gaeltacht areas to continue to speak the language. In terms of creating jobs these schemes were relatively successful. They attracted business into small rural communities on the western fringes of Europe, in areas that had previously been suffering from a long-term economic decline and depopulation.
However, it is now viewed that despite all this Gaeltarra Éireann failed in perhaps its most fundamental objective - to safeguard the use of the Irish language as the main community language in the Gaeltacht.
- An Coimisinéir Teanga, Protecting language rights (retrieved 11 October 2006)
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