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Early Irish (TSM)

Admission Requirements

For Admission requirements please click here


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+ EU Applicants

Read the information about how to apply, then apply directly to CAO

+ Non-EU Applicants

+ Mature Student - Supplementary Application Form

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Early Irish component

Early Irish can be studied either in combination with one other subject as part of a two-subject moderatorship (TSM) programme or in the single honor Early and Modern Irish programme.

Is this the right course for you?

If you are interested in acquiring a reading knowledge of Medieval Irish, in which the great saga literature of our manuscripts was written, this is the course for you. You will enjoy small class sizes and a friendly atmosphere, work with scholars publishing in the field and may avail of the option to study Medieval and Modern Welsh in Wales in your third year.

Course content

The Early Irish course, which is taught through the medium of English, covers the history of the Irish language from its first appearance on the Ogam inscriptions at the dawn of the Christian era in the fifth century, to the highly polished language of the sagas and law texts preserved in the medieval manuscript collections held in the libraries of Trinity, the Royal Irish Academy and the National Library, all within a five-minute walk of the Arts building. The Celtic and Indo-European origins of Irish will be investigated. You will come to know the great characters of Early Irish literature, including the tragic Deirdre, the doomed Conaire, the irresistible but irritable Cú Chulainn, the hopelessly infatuated Muirchertach and many more. The Pagan and/or Christian character of the literature will be investigated as will topics such as kingship, the heroic biography and the sovereignty goddess.

The Freshman years

In the first two years you will study the basics of Old Irish. At this stage most literature is read in translation but you will be introduced to the original texts gradually and you will see how the language emerged and developed through the early Christian period.

The Sophister years

In the Sophister (third and fourth) years the horizons are expanded; your study of the history of the language will take you back to its Celtic origins and forward to the dawn of Modern Irish. At this stage you will be reading prose and poetry as well as law and history in the original language, and a special course in palaeography will teach you how to read the manuscripts themselves. Junior Sophister (third year) students may opt to spend a term in Aberystwyth learning Medieval and Modern Welsh.


Assessment is by exercises and essays submitted during the year, as well as end-of-year examinations. In the final year you will also research and write a dissertation.

Career opportunities

Some students of Early Irish pursue independent research in the subject with a view to teaching at third-level. Most follow a career in teaching or journalism, especially Irish-language related media. Library archiving, the public service, marketing, business, interpreting and translation all figure in the profiles of past students.

Did you know?

  • Trinity is home to the twelfth-century Book of Leinster, one of the most important manuscripts of Irish literature and learning to have survived from the medieval period.

Further information

Tel: +353 1 896 1450

Specific Entry Requirements

Leaving CertificateHC3 Irish
Advanced GCE (A-Level)Grade C Irish
Other EU examination systemsSee

Graduate Profile

Name: Christina Cleary

Being part of Scoil na Gaeilge in Trinity provided me with some of the most valued years of my life. When I first embarked upon my path towards third level education I found the whole task quite daunting, yet within a few weeks of lectures I was completely enveloped. The staff itself boasts some of the most learned academics in the field who are prepared to support and help each individual student to progress to their full potential.

First year in EMI (Early and Modern Irish) introduces the student to the vast opportunities available and encompasses topics such as the origin of the language and Old Irish literature. These, and many others, are then studied in more detail in the following years. Second year, then, provided me with the opportunity to sit the Trinity Foundation Scholarship Examinations. Having obtained the appropriate grade, the scholar is awarded financial support for the next five years which includes post-graduate studies, accommodation, your evening meal and much more.

Third year was one of the most socially and academically exciting years for me as I was given the opportunity to study in Aberystwyth, Wales for a semester. While there, the student of EMI is taught Welsh and Early and Modern Irish from a totally new perspective. Then, during the second semester, I was given the choice of studying Scottish Gaelic in the Isle of Skye for a week. A little known fact about the Irish Department in Trinity is that you are introduced to all these wonderful languages as well as Irish itself.

My choices of where to apply for post-graduate studies were broad and varied having majored in Early Irish in my final year. For instance, I considered applying to Cambridge, Paris, Bonn and Marburg. I finally chose Phillips-UniversitÀt in Marburg for my Master's programme where I can learn the German language and broaden my academic horizons in a foreign country.

Of the many boons included as a result of being part of Scoil na Gaeilge, the student is presented with multi-dimensional facilities, networks and access to the major works housed in the Manuscript Department in Trinity, the Royal Irish Academy and the National Library. I also became acquainted with the scholars and academics of the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies through Trinity's Scoil na Gaeilge and was thus able to avail of their facilities. I have made a deep connection with the subjects I have studied, Trinity College and the Irish Department that I will carry with me for the rest of my life."