Leaving Cert English paper 2: Relief as predicted poets appear

No unpleasant surprises in an exam which asserts the importance of literature

Tens of thousands of students breathed a sigh of relief when widely-predicted poets John Montague and Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin appeared on English paper two.

Earlier on Twitter, students had issued dire threats that they would walk, storm or cry their way out of exam halls if the poets did not show up.

One unfortunate student - who declared they were “putting everything on Gerard Manley Hopkins” - pledged to visit the poet’s grave to demand an answer.

Elsewhere in the paper, students who read Shakespeare's King Lear were offered a choice between moments of riveting drama which offered thought-provoking insights into the human condition, or a character question on the role of Cordelia.


"These were both fair questions which allow an able candidate to show their abilities," said Julian Girdham, head of English at St Columba's College in Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

Lorraine Tuffy, an English teacher at JMS Enniscrone said it was “a refreshingly straightforward paper that encouraged students to engage freely with literature in a pleasant and meaningful way.

“Handling the nuances of poetry questions would have been a feasible challenge for a well-prepared candidate.

"The comparative questions were marked by a reassuring clarity and the unseen poem, while an afterthought for many exhausted students, was the beautifully crafted and suggestive Two Ivory Swans by Moya Cannon, " said Ms Tuffy, who is also a subject expert with Studyclix.ie.

Jim Lusby, an English teacher at the Institute of Education in Dublin, said it was a challenging but hugely stimulating paper which acknowledged that Leaving Cert students were mature thinkers with a considerable knowledge of life.

“There were no unpleasant surprises and the paper asserted the importance of literature,” he said.

The ordinary level paper, which was sat by just under 14,000 students, was very straightforward, said Mr Girdham.

“The Lear questions will frighten no-one, and nor will comparative questions on hero, heroine, villain and social setting.”

Prescribed poems included Philip Larkin's The Explosion, Ted Hughes's Hawk Roosting, Eavan Boland's Child of our Time and Michael Coady's New World.

Try this at home: Leaving Cert English higher level, paper 2

“Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin tells fascinating stories, often examining themes that are relevant to contemporary Ireland, in a style that is both beautiful and mysterious.”

To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement? Support your answer with reference to the poetry of Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin