MA (Old & Middle Irish)[full-time or part-time]

College of Arts, Social Sciences, & Celtic Studies

Course overview

The MA in Old and Middle Irish is designed to provide students with a thorough grounding in Irish language and literature of the period c. 600–c. 1200. It is aimed at those who already have a good basic knowledge of Irish (Medieval or Modern), or another Celtic language, and, exceptionally, at those who have the appropriate background to undertake the study of Old and Middle Irish at the outset.  

Staff help to identify thesis-topics which may lend themselves to eventual publication. While teaching is through English (to accommodate students from different backgrounds), the use of Irish is actively supported, and the University’s bilingual campus is of special benefit to all students of Irish, of whatever period. 

Key facts

Entry requirements

NQAI Level 8 degree or equivalent, Second Class Honours or equivalent. IELTS 6.5 or equivalent.


Duration: 1 year, full-time
2 years, part-time

Next start date: September 2015

ECTS weighting: 90

Average intake: 15

Closing date: You are advised to apply early, which may result in an early offer; see the offer round dates

Mode of study: Taught

Course outline

The programme is simultaneously available on a full-time and a part-time basis. In both cases, 60 of the total 90 credits (ECTS) are allocated to taught modules, and the remaining 30 to the minor thesis.

Full-time students follow a prescribed taught course for two semesters (from September to April approximately), following which they complete a dissertation of ca. 15,000 words over the summer. They attend approximately eight lectures each week in both semesters.

The programme offers modules in the following:

  • Grammar of Old and Middle Irish
  • Literary History 600–1200
  • Close reading of medieval Irish texts
  • History, scholarship and culture in medieval Ireland
  • Comparative Celtic linguistics 



Applications and selections

Applications are made online via The Postgraduate Applications Centre (PAC). Relevant PAC application code(s) above.

Who teaches this course?

  • Dr Graham Isaac, BA, PhD
  • An tOllamh Máirín Ní Dhonnchadha, BA, MA, PhD
  • Dr Clodagh Downey, BA, MA, PhD 

Requirements and assessment

Assessment takes three forms: written examinations, essays, and a minor thesis. Essays are completed during Semester One and Two. Written examinations are held at the end of Semester Two. The minor dissertation is completed by the end of the summer.

Find out more

PAC code

GYA33 full-time
GYA34 part-time

Fees for this course

EU (Total): €6,015 p.a. 2014/15 (inclusive of Levy)
 - Tuition: €5,791 p.a. 2014/15
 - Student levy: €224 p.a. 2014/15
Non-EU (Total): €13,250 p.a. 2014/15

M.A. EU Full time programme:  €6,015

M.A. EU part time programme:  €3,065 p.a.

Current students

Old and Middle Irish Part-time

Current Student

Aogán Ó hIarlaithe

"Having completed a BA in Modern Irish and History in NUI Maynooth I felt that the MA course in Old and Middle Irish provided a unique opportunity to pursue my interest in both of these subjects, and I have not been disappointed. A wide range of aspects are dealt with, from Early Irish poetry and prose tales to vernacular legal texts, canon law and historical linguistics.

The course here at NUI Galway offers many opportunities for interaction with other disciplines, including archaeology, anthropology and classics, in an enticing and enriching way. Medieval Irish studies are no longer treated in isolation or in relation to other Celtic societies only, but increasingly within their wider European context. The deeper understanding gained of the subtleties of syntax and grammar can only benefit the subsequent study of other languages, whether modern or classical. While the course is certainly demanding and intellectually challenging, small class sizes ensure a high level of interaction with a dedicated and expert teaching staff who give generously of their time and provide excellent opportunities to overcome quickly any difficulties which the student may encounter. This programme is hugely rewarding for anyone with an interest in the early development of the Irish language, in history, literature or linguistics. While this field has benefitted greatly from important groundbreaking and innovative work in recent years, there remains much to be done. The MA in Old and Middle Irish is the platform from which I hope to pursue research at PhD level next year."


Past students

Trish Ní Mhaoileoin

"My journey to Old and Middle Irish was long and somewhat arduous, but ultimately fulfilling. Having acquired a BA in archaeology and Spanish from UCD, I continued to pursue an MA in archaeology, focusing on medieval rural settlements in south Leinster. Pursuing a career choice as an archaeologist proved to be untenable and I wandered for a few years until I decided to move to Galway from New Zealand where I had been living, to do the Dioplóma sa Ghaeilge in NUIG. Through the Dioplóma, I heard about the MA in Old and Middle Irish and thought that it would be a wonderful bridge between my interests in medieval Irish history and culture, and my burgeoning interest in the Irish language. The MA in Old and Middle Irish provided me with a thorough grounding in the literature of the early Irish period - from prose to poetry, from secular narrative to ecclesiastical and legal texts—and a solid language base from which to advance to research at PhD level. I am now in the early stages of my research on the multi-faceted legendary warrior figure, Fergus mac Róich. My thesis will involve linguistic and editorial work (both on, and in, Irish), and critical, historical and comparative literary work."