Junior Cert papers changed to avoid upset following student deaths

Sensitive references withdrawn for hundreds of Ennis students after drowning of two teens

Jack Kenneally and Shay Moloney. Photographs: Facebook

Jack Kenneally and Shay Moloney. Photographs: Facebook


The State Examinations Commission (SEC) reprinted hundreds of copies of two Junior Cert exam papers for students in the Ennis area after deleting exam content in its response to the tragic double drowning of two local 15 year olds.

Students in Ennis were grief-stricken following the drowning of Junior Cert student Shay Moloney and his friend, Jack Kenneally, in a lake in an unused quarry six days before the exams were to start.

The two were stars this year of Ennis RFC’s under-15 team and Shay lost his life trying to save his friend at the quarry outside Ennis on May 31st.

A student at St Flannan’s College, Shay was due to commence his Junior Cert exams last Wednesday.

Yesterday, the SEC confirmed it undertook what it called “the massive logistical operation” of reprinting and packing amended papers at Junior Cert Ordinary Level Irish and Junior Cert Civic, Social and Political Education in response to the tragedy.

This follows staff at the SEC undertaking a ‘rapid review’ by going through every exam paper in order “to identifying any examination content that might cause distress to students closely involved with the traumatic event and sitting examinations in its immediate aftermath”.

As a result the SEC removed two questions - one each in the Ordinary Level Irish and the Civic, Social and Political Education - that may have caused upset to Ennis students and replaced them with questions of equal demand.

However, the SEC admitted that it missed one question in the Higher Level English paper that asked students to select the correct word in the sentence - ‘I was not allowed / aloud to swim in the old quarry’.

Earlier this week, member of Clare Co Council, Cllr Mary Howard (FG) said that it was “hugely unfortunate that some of the friends of the two boys were faced with a question like this in their English exam, especially when they are still grieving over the boys’ deaths”.

Yesterday, a spokesman for the SEC said: “If this question had come to our attention during the review, we would also have arranged for its replacement.”

Giving details of the two questions that were replaced, the SEC stated that in Junior Cert Ordinary Level Irish, candidates were asked to match a set of pictures with a set of related signs or notices.

One matching pair consisted of pairing the text ‘Dainséar ­- Cosc ar shnámh anseo’ with an image of a lake in front of which is a sign with a standard ‘no swimming’ graphic. This item-pair was replaced.

Also in the Junior Cert Civic Social and Political Education, in Section 3, Q1 on page 12 begins with the statement that one of the aims of the Irish Coast Guard is to reduce the loss of life on Ireland’s seas and waterways, and candidates are then asked a number of questions about the Coast Guard.