Leaving Cert English paper 2: Students delight as poet Paula Meehan makes predicted appearance

‘If Meehan did not appeal to candidates, Mahon, Kavanagh, Rich and Donne provided relief for many’

It was biggest cliffhanger of the Leaving Cert: would the predicted poets appear? This year, students didn’t fall off the cliff, with widely-tipped poet Paula Meehan appearing on the paper – but those who put their hopes in Elizabeth Bishop may have been disappointed.

“Even TikTok was not spared as hope mounted that new poet Paula Meehan would make an appearance – and appear she did,” said English teacher and online grinds provider Gillian Chute.

“The Meehan question asked candidates to discuss how she employs ‘vibrant and forceful language’ to ‘challenge the often-oppressive forces’ in her poetry,” Ms Chute said.

“While the question may have proved challenging for some, candidates that could tackle the nuances of the question would have welcomed it.


“If Paula Meehan did not appeal to candidates, Mahon, Kavanagh, Rich and Donne would have provided relief for many as they completed the line-up in the 2023 studied poetry section. A fantastic cohort – even if it was surprising to see Adrienne Rich on the paper for a second year in a row.”

Clodagh Havel, an English teacher at the Institute of Education, said this was a paper that students should be happy with, once they gave themselves the chance to pause and compose their approaches.

“For some, the comparative [section] is the most dreaded, the most challenging part of the paper but thankfully they were greeted by a welcoming general vision and viewpoint question,” Ms Havel said.

“It was straightforward and accessible with no verbose or obtuse demands. The phrasing of the theme or issue question did likely cause a moment for pause though, forcing a little bit of reflection.”

Lorraine Tuffy, Studyclix.ie subject expert and a teacher at Jesus and Mary Secondary School in Enniscrone, Co Sligo, said that Lady Macbeth was hotly tipped to be the focus of this year’s Shakespeare question.

“Having last appeared on the paper in 2007, a question on Lady Macbeth was widely anticipated and the bard’s most ruthless insurgent’s presence on the paper will have come as a relief to many,” said Ms Tuffy.

“Her absence in exam questions since 2007 meant many candidates will have carefully revised the protagonist’s ‘dearest partner of greatness’. Students considered how Shakespeare uses both Lady Macbeth and the witches to heighten the dramatic impact of his play.”

The other optional question was less appealing for its verbosity, Ms Tuffy said, with students asked to write about how “Macbeth’s unstable and tragic identity is shaped by a variety of ambiguities and complexities in his character”.

A question on the other single text options was relatively inviting, with a particularly appealing character question on Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Ms Tuffy said.