The Department of Education and Skills allows students in Ireland to apply to be excused from studying Irish in primary and post-primary school.
The circumstances in which a student will be given this exemption are very limited. Where a student has lived abroad or does not speak English, they may be exempted. Students with certain disabilities may also be exempted. Information about primary school is in Circular 12/96 Revision of Circular 18/79 on Exemption from the Study of Irish and about secondary school in Circular M10/94.
Where entry to a third-level course requires a student to have a certain mark in Irish at the Leaving Certificate examination, students who have been exempted from the study of Irish may also be exempted from this requirement. This is a matter for each individual college. Generally, if a student has had an exemption during post-primary education, he/she is likely to be exempted from Irish as a college entry requirement. The student applying for a third-level course through the Central Applications Office (CAO) should send a copy of the exemption certificate with his/her CAO application form.
These are the categories of student who may apply to be exempted from the study of Irish:
- Students whose primary education up to 11 years of age was received in Northern Ireland or outside Ireland
- Students who were enrolled in a primary or post-primary school and who are now enrolling again after having been abroad. The student must have been abroad for at least three years. The student must be at least 11 years of age when re-enrolling.
- Students who function at an average or above-average level of ability, but who have a specific learning difficulty that is so severe that they cannot reach expected levels of attainment in their mother tongue.
- Students who have a general learning disability due to a serious intellectual impairment and who are not acquiring basic language skills in their mother tongue.
- Students who have a general learning disability on account of a serious sensory impairment, and who are not learning basic language skills in their mother tongue
Students from abroad who have no understanding of English, when enrolled, would only be required to study one language, either English or Irish.
The application for exemption is made by the parent or guardian to the school principal. The application should state the reasons why the exemption is being sought.
The parent/guardian must attach documentary evidence of the student’s age, and previous schooling if it is relevant to the reason for the exemption being sought.
The school authorities then prepare a full report on the student.
Where the exemption is sought on the grounds of a disability, the parent or guardian must supply reports from a qualified psychologist or from an appropriate medical specialist.
Where an exemption is granted, a certificate of exemption is sent to the school. This signed by the school principal. It is the responsibility of the school principal to tell the parent/student about the result of the application.
If you have an Irish/Language Exemption, you must contact the NUI or Trinity or University of Limerick to ensure that you are registered with them as having the exemption. Failure to do so will mean that they will be expecting you to present Irish as a subject where required. Students are required to apply for these exemptions themselves. The school does not make these applications.