Does the Leinster dialect exist?
I'm trying to improve Irish over the summer and I've always wondered does the Leinster dialect still exist or has existed. In my school Irish words are pronounced a bit differently from all the other dialects so I'm not exactly sure how should I pronounce certain words. (I'm in Co. Louth BTW)
Yes, a Leinster dialect did exist around Dublin and south of it, even though it has been dead for a long time in most places (and finally disappeared in the last places almost a century ago) so that only bits and pieces of the local dialects are known - certainly not enough to fully reconstruct them.
However, the situation with Louth is different. While it's technically part of Leinster, the dialect that was historically spoken there wasn't this lost Leinster dialect, but it really belonged to the Ulster dialects. Others have pointed out that recordings of native speakers exist for Louth, and if you listen to them, you'll notice many of the typical features of Ulster Irish.
So if you want to get as close as possible to the dialect that was historically spoken in your area, I'd suggest you start from today's Ulster Irish, because that's the closest thing that you'll find good and comprehensive resources for, and then use the extra information you can get about your area specifically (e.g. from the recordings) to modify it and add some local features to your speech.
I hope they find a way to reconstruct it. I had Connacht and Ulster Irish teachers in school, and got help from my Munster parents. I personally prefer the Connacht Dialect (Póg mo thón Ulster Irish, you painful oddball #listeningexampains) but I would love to see a Leinster dialect revival in my lifetime.
I would argue that no such thing ever existed. Louth Irish, spoken until relatively recent times in Omeath, was a form of Ulster Irish - remember that Cú Chulainn was an 'Ulster' hero supposedly living in that part of modern Leinster. Further back, Irish was spoken in places like Kilkenny but that would have been closer to east Munster Irish than to Louth Irish. Basically, if you go far enough back to a time when Irish was spoken widely across Leinster, there would have been more of a continuum in the language more generally, thereby making the idea of 'provincial dialects' meaningless.
As has been pointed out elsewhere, there are recordings of Louth Irish available on the internet. Search for 'The Doegen Records Web Project'. Personally, my view is that we should ultimately go back to the Irish of the mid-1800s. That is unfair whilst living dialects still survive but they are unlikely to survive for long (I lived in Kerry Gaeltacht for a couple of years about 20 years ago and the language was fast dying out then). Whatever else, the Esperanto-like mongrel language devised by detached bureaucrats in Dublin and imposed on the people, to the exclusion of living dialects or previous incarnations of the language that were spoken by millions of our ancestors, should be rejected. Until then, embrace differences in pronunciation as the idea of creating a 'standard pronunciation' for a made up language is as sensible as commissioning someone to devise detailed anatomical charts of the unicorn. If you like or feel an affinity to the pronunciation of Omeath Irish, go with that. If you want to learn Omeath idioms and use them, go for it!
BTW - for anyone who cares, there are a wide range of free resources available for slightly older forms of Irish (search 'tyi1961 miles dillon' to find a pdf with embedded sound files) and various grammar books are available on websites such as archive_dot_org.
Modern Research (see Stair na Gaeilge, Section V) suggests that, outside of the obvious sense of there being forms of Irish spoken in Leinster, there was no Leinster dialect. Or more accurately that most of Leinster and Connacht spoke different forms of the same overall dialect.
Hence there were three super-dialects:
(i) Connacht-Leinster Irish
(ii) Ulster Irish
(iii) Munster Irish
Depending who you listen to, there may or may not be a Leinster dialect. Some have proposed that there were only three main dialect groups that ran in bands across Ireland. The southernmost dialect would be Munster/Kerry Irish, the middle would be Connaught/Connemara Irish and the northernmost would be Ulster/Donegal Irish.
Irish was spoken in Leinster until the early 20th century - my great grandparents were from Killkenny and their first language was Irish.
It was actually only in the 1960s that the last speaker of Leinster (from Louth) Irish died. But, since then, there is no Leinster Irish dialect, no. It's actually possible to listen to sole recordings of various Leinster speakers made by the IFC. And there's a blog dedicated to figuring out what Dublin Irish sounded like before it went extinct.