Exemptions from Irish: An Inclusion Dilemma

Achoimre: While exemptions from Irish are periodically reported in the media, they have attracted little academic commentary. Learners with certain special educational needs (SEN) qualify for an exemption from Irish when clear criteria are met (DES1, 1994; DES, 1996), but there appears to be a gap between policy and practice. This paper presents findings on the educational profile of learners with Williams syndrome, a rare neurodevelopmental condition that results in an intellectual disability (ID) but an aptitude for language learning. Most of the teacher participants in the study acknowledged the languagelearning capacity of the learners but some portrayed professional dilemmas of working within the parameters of an exemption from Irish. While this paper primarily aims to open the debate on exemptions from Irish, it also proposes a framework for the teaching of Irish to learners with SEN.