In general, this period was one of a retrenchment following the earlier ambitious attempts to promote the language on a truly national basis, and the focus narrowed to focus on existing speakers and those with a strong interest in acquiring or improving Irish language skills.
The Irish economy in this period was in deep recession and emigration, which had abated suring the 1970s, was again a feature of Irish life. Many organisations found themselves having to adapt to the new climate of austerity, and Gael Linn was no exception. The scene was set by the decision by the RTÉ Authority to end sponsored programmes on Raidio Éireann, which meant that the weekly sponsored radio programme was broadcast for the last time on the 29th of December 1980. Gael Linn began to develop links with bodies engaged in similar struggles in other countries.
In 1981, it organised a seminar in Dublin on the position of the lesser-used languages of Europe, and over a number of years it became active in promoting the cause of the lesser-used languages of Europe, assisting in the establishment of the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages. In 1982, a policy document on education, The Future of the Irish Language in The Irish Education System, was published, followed shortly afterwards by a policy document on local radio, The Future of Irish Local Radio.
A new weekly newspaper, Anois, was founded in 1984. This was the first Irish language newspaper in tabloid format and the first to use full-colour. Newspread Ltd, a major wholesale distributor of magazines and newspapers distributed the new title, which developed a healthy circulation and continued publication until 1996. Gael Linn did. however, continue to publish educational materials for schools and this grew to comprise the titles Staighre, Céim and Dréimire.
In 1988, Coirm, an initiative was launched to provide Irish language and cultural entertainment in various venues on a regular basis, initially in venues around the Dublin area. In 1989, the government, after much procrastination, finally announced proposals for a legal network of local radio stations, and Gael Linn purchased shareholdings in Clare FM and Radio Kerry.