Irish Paper 1 (H): A Surprising Paper That Called For A Deep Breath, Cool Head and Balanced Approach

Leaving Cert Irish Paper 1 Higher Review

Reaction to 2024 Leaving Certificate Irish Paper 1 (Higher Level) by Clare Grealy, Irish teacher at The Institute of Education.

  • Students will have a sense of déjà vu as topics from the 2023 deferred paper reappear. 
  • Many will feel deflated as anticipated vocabulary was not in print. 


Students started their Paper 1 with the aural exam, which was true to form with clear, concise clips delivered at a manageable pace. The answers needed to be short and to the point as students were often given only one line to fit their answers.  

The body of the exam was the essays, and many students were anticipating contemporary topics like homelessness, war and violence as they have been so prevalent in the news during the year. Yet, at first glance many would have felt disappointed to see those key issues absent. There were opportunities to use this material, as there were ample chances to use material prepared for the orals, yet these were indirect. Thus, students needed to take a deep breath and calm themselves as they plan their approach, weighing their strengths against the nuances of the questions.  

Every question had accessible language, but each prompt contained a challenge that required students to address varied elements. These didn’t have to have equal space on the page but it was essential that both appear. For example, the question on sport necessitated a discussion of pleasures and heartbreaks: the former being familiar territory for many, while the latter is a nuance that will differentiate the top achievers. Similarly, the question on life in the countryside called for the students to balance the contemporary with speculation about what rural life will be like in the future. The question of the quality of life of everyone would have allowed students to draw upon prepared material on the life of the teenager, but again requires them to contextualize this material. Vocabulary practiced to discuss war and violence could be used in discussion of Ireland and International Affairs, but again a student needed to take the moment early on to catch their breath and orientate themselves. The debate and speech titles will have sparked déjà vu in those who revised the both deferred paper from 2023 and the Leaving Cert. of 2021 as the topics of holidays and music both reappeared. However the speech on music would be a red herring for many as the change from “importance of music” to “role of music” is a subtle change that will put many off the topic. 

In the end, students had opportunities to apply their study and secure their grades but they will likely have a muted reaction to the paper. The absent topics and need to weigh different elements will have meant students needed to adapt in the moment to a paper that would have surprised many.