Irish Exemption

 Application for Exemption from Study of Irish

The relevant circular 0052/2019 is available on the Department of Education web-site at and should be read in conjunction with this document.

While the circular states that “The decision to grant an exemption from the study of Irish is made by the principal teacher”, this should not distract from the fact that there are strict guidelines laid down by the Department of Education to which the principal must adhere. These are set out below.

Exemption from the study of Irish may be allowed in the following exceptional circumstances only:

a) pupils whose education up to 12 years of age (or up to and including the final year of their primary education) was received outside the State and where they did not have opportunity to engage in the study of Irish


b) pupils who were previously enrolled as recognised pupils in primary schools who are being re-enrolled after a period spent abroad, provided that at least three consecutive years have elapsed since the previous enrolment in the state and are at least 12 years of age on re-enrolment


c) pupils who:

i.                     have at least reached second class and

ii.                   present with significant learning difficulties that are persistent despite having had access to a differentiated approach to language and literacy learning in both Irish and English over time.

iii.                 at the time of the application for exemption present with a standardised score on a discrete test in either Word Reading, Reading Comprehension or Spelling at/below the 10th percentile.


d) children of foreigners who are diplomatic or consular representatives in Ireland.


If a child does not meet any of the above criteria, they cannot be considered for an Irish Exemption.

The Department Circular lays out the procedures which the school must follow when an Irish Exemption is being considered. This includes providing advice to parents on the possible implications of exemption from the study of Irish. These include possible effects on entry to certain colleges, on career opportunities in primary teaching, An Garda Siochána, civil service, European Commission, Irish language media and more.

If a parent believes that their child would benefit from and qualifies for an Irish Exemption (under one of the categories above), they should seek an appointment to meet the principal. The procedures will be followed as laid out in the Department Circular.


Evidence of a child’s struggle with Irish and English should have been noted in End of Year Reports. Where there is evidence to suggest the child might score at or below the 10th percentile in Word Reading, Reading Comprehension, or Spelling, parents will be required to provide consent for the school to carry out a diagnostic assessment of the child’s attainment. The assessment scores, in conjunction with the reports of class teachers will provide the basis for the principal’s decision.

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