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Studying in Ireland – Exemption from Irish

The Department of Education and Skills allows students in Ireland to apply to be excused from studying Irish in post-primary school.

Source: Citizen Information

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.

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 ( 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.

How to apply, and where to apply for an exemption from the study of Irish.

A written application for an exemption is made by the parent or guardian to the school principal on behalf of their child.  The application should state the reasons why the exemption is being sought. A child will only be considered for an exemption where his/her educational circumstances come within the provisions of the primary circular in the case of a primary school going child or the post primary circular in the case of a post primary child.

Updated:  September 2017