Irish is one of the three Goidelic or Gaelic languages, together with Scots Gaelic and Manx, the language of the Isle of Man. It is a member of the Insular Celtic language group of the Celtic language family, and is similar to Welsh and Breton.
As established by Article 8 of the Constitution, Irish is the first official language in Ireland, followed by English. Since 13 June 2005 it has also been an official language of the EU. The EU only publishes treaties and other primary legal documents in Irish, but neither secondary legislation nor the Official Gazette. However, since 1 January 2007 certain secondary legislative acts will be published also in Irish Gaelic.
Over the centuries, Irish has gradually supplanted other languages spoken in Ireland, which have left no direct traces of their presence except as a linguistic substrate of Irish, which was thus the only language spoken on the island up to the arrival of Christianity in the fourth and fifth centuries.
Subsequently, with the domination of English at the start of the twentieth century, the language was confined to some western coastal areas, today known as the Gaeltacht, with a majority of Irish speakers. The state has always demonstrated a strong interest in safeguarding the original language, and it is an obligatory subject in public schools. Today Irish is to be found everywhere in Ireland. All street signs are in both English and Irish. Only in the Gaeltacht are they only written in Irish. This also applies to public documents and commemorative plaques.
One rarely hears Irish spoken outside the Gaeltacht, however. It can sometimes be heard spoken by persons of a certain age in areas like Galway or, more rarely, in Dublin. The Universities generally have Irish speaking faculties, especially in the humanities and Celtic culture and language.
It is difficult to estimate how many of the educated urban middle class speak Irish. Familiarity with Irish is widespread in this social class, although it is mainly passive or spoken only in the family. All laws must be published in Irish. In practice, however, this is not always done. In general, legal sentences only consider the English text, and the Irish version is often only published later.
Irish is presently written in the Roman alphabet. This has replaced an older form of writing based on Roman uppercase characters (Cló Gaelach). Up to the first half of the twentieth century, Irish books and other texts were often printed in this older script. It is still used, but only for decorative purposes.
If I am exporting a product to Ireland, must the technical documentation be translated into Irish?
No. Since English is the second official language, and the two languages are legally equivalent, it need only be translated into English.