Challenge brought over refusal to grant student exemption from learning Irish

Requirement said to be causing distress to girl with special educational needs

A student with special educational needs has brought a High Court challenge against a refusal by the secondary school she attends to grant her an exemption from having to study Irish.

The court heard that by having to learn the Irish language the girl’s emotional wellbeing has been harmed and her anxiety levels have been heightened.

Neither the student, who has brought the action through her mother, nor the school which she attends can be identified by order of the court. The action is one of three similar actions pending before the High Court.

In a sworn statement to the court the girl’s mother said her child has been diagnosed with ADHD, ASD and anxiety. The girl’s condition is exacerbated and triggered by having to learn Irish, the mother adds.


A psychological assessment, and other reports have recommended that the girl seek an exemption from having to learn Irish. An application was made on behalf of the girl for an exemption from learning Irish to the mainstream secondary school she attends.

However, earlier this year that application was refused by the school’s board of management.

Despite the fact the girl does require some special classes, the girl’s mother said the school’s board held that she did not meet the criteria for an exemption.

The criteria are contained in a Department of Education Circular entitled ‘Exemption from the Study of Irish”.

The court also heard that the girl, represented by Derek Shortall SC instructed by KOD Lyons solicitors, was not granted an exemption from having to learn Irish at primary school she formally attended.


The girl’s mother said she did not proceed with an appeal against the secondary school’s decision, as she believes that her daughter does not fit into any of the criteria contained in the circular.

However, the mother claims that her daughter is “not being provided with an appropriate education.”

The failure to be granted an exemption diminishes her overall education as well as impinging on her psychological integrity and as such is a violation of her constitutional rights. the mother added.

Her daughter is “struggling significantly” with Irish which is causing her “unending stress and anxiety, due to her specific mix of educational needs.”

The mother adds that she “cannot understand” why her daughter’s needs are not being catered to.

In judicial review proceedings against the School’s Board of Management, the Minister for Education and Skills, Ireland and the Attorney General the student seeks an order quashing the school board’s decision that the girl is not entitled to an exemption from learning Irish.

It was accepted that the girl’s school is applying the criteria set down by Dept. of Education and the action is directed at the State respondents.

The student also seeks various declarations from the court including that the school’s board is operating an inflexible policy in regards to exemptions contained in the circular regarding what students are exempted from the study of Irish.

She also seeks a declaration that the circular regarding exemptions from studying Irish is irrational and unreasonable and repugnant to the constitution on the basis that it is unfair, irrational and discriminatory.

A further declaration is sought that the Department of Education’s circular regarding exemptions also unlawfully interferes with the student’s right to an appropriate education.

The matter came before Mr Justice Anthony Barr on Monday. The judge granted the girl permission on an ex-parte basis, to bring the challenge. The matter was adjourned to a date in December.