The Irish language represents an area of complexity for cultural policy. In legislation, the Irish language is deemed important to Irish culture and Irish identity by the Irish Government. The Official Languages Act (2003) sets out the status of the Irish language in the Irish Constitution. Article 8 of the Constitution states: 1. The Irish language as the national language is the first official language; 2. The English language is recognised as a second official language; and 3. Provision may, however, be made by law for the exclusive use of either of the said languages for any one or more official purposes, either throughout the State or in any part thereof. This was the first time the provision of services in general through Irish by the state system was placed on a statutory footing. The aim of the 2003 Act is to increase and improve in an organised manner over a period of time the quantity and quality of services provided for the public through Irish by public bodies. The legislation intends to create a space for the language in public affairs in Ireland. The Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga (a fully independent office) was established under the Official Languages Act as an independent statutory office operating as an ombudsman’s service and as a compliance agency.
An important goal of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media is to support the Irish language, to strengthen its use as the principal community language of the Gaeltacht and to assist the sustainable development of island communities. The Department funds Údarás na Gaeltachta as the regional development agency for the Gaeltacht and co-funds Foras na Gaeilge in its work in supporting the Irish language on an all-island basis (including Northern Ireland.) It also funds the office of the Language Commissioner and supports the delivery of services to island communities.
The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media has an overarching responsibility for the implementation of the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language (2010-2030). The Strategy aims to promote a holistic, integrated approach to the Irish language. A key feature of the Strategy is a coordinated approach in conjunction with Údarás na Gaeltachta and Foras na Gaeilge. Údarás na Gaeltachta operates under the Údarás na Gaeltachta Acts (1979-2010). The relevant primary legislation includes both the Údarás na Gaeltachta Acts and the Gaeltacht Act (2012). The policy support for the Irish language is spread across multiple Government departments: the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media works with the Department of Education and Skills, and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.