There exist only a few Irish words in common use....
In 2007, the same year that Europe declared Irish an official language of the Union, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht affairs here in Ireland estimated that there were only 44,000 speakers of the language.
This figure amounts to only 1% of the population and it is based only upon an estimation of the number of people who live within the designated Gaeltacht (Gaelic-speaking) areas. The percentage of those who use the language extensively, or even regularly, has to be a lot less.
Gaelic Irish is a required subject in public schools, and so there is a rudimentary level of knowledge within the culture. There are Irish-language radio programs and a television station that shows good Irish-language documentaries that are subtititled in English. The newspapers have a tendency to feature at least one article written in the old language.
But as an active language, Gaelic Irish is nearly extinct.
Politicians often feel compelled to demonstrate that they have some command of Irish; but at the same time they make a great show of being "one of the people." The people don't speak Irish.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO,) Gaelic Irish in 2009 is a language that is "definitely endangered," and it may be on its way to disuse.
In 2011 the political party Fine Gael suggested that the study of the Irish language, long requisite for the "leaving certificate" in public schools, be declared optional.