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Mother’s tribute to CLM solicitor who took on son’s case
Cormac Flynn

22 Dec 2022 / education Print

Mother's tribute to solicitor who took on son's case

The visually impaired Leaving Cert student who has benefited from a legal challenge to the State Examinations Commission (SEC) now wants to be a lawyer.

Cormac Flynn, who attends Coláiste na Mara in Arklow, Co Wicklow, has won the right to have digital Leaving Cert papers for his exam next June.

His mother Eithne Walsh paid wholehearted tribute to children's rights solicitor Ruth Barry from Community Law and Mediation (CLM), who took on the case.

The SEC has now agreed to make accommodation for Leaving Cert exam students who have a visual impairment, allowing them to have digital versions of their exam papers.

Eithne explained that Cormac, who has approximately 10% of his sight, has completed all of his studies digitally.


However, his Leaving Cert presented a large obstacle, because the rules allowed only for paper-based exams, which would have led to handling a cumbersome 54-page paper for each test.

Under the planned adjustment, visually impaired students, under the care of the Visiting Teacher Service, will have access to read-only PDFs.

These PDFs can then be manually pinched to an appropriate size for the exam candidate.

Eithne Walsh, who is head of advocacy and communication with Féach, a support group for parents of blind/visually-impaired students, said the victory meant everything to her son.

"Cormac's elder sister had gone through her mock Leaving Cert, and we identified that having to use papers was going to be an issue because of his deteriorating eye condition," she explained.

Blank wall

Eithne requested digital exam papers following Cormac's Junior Cert, and hit a blank wall despite her son benefitting from technology since he was in primary school.

After meeting SEC refusal, based on maintaining the integrity of the exam, Walsh discovered, through a Freedom of Information request, that the ruling was based on an advisory group from the year 2000.

The SEC conceded the point, and now every visually impaired student doing the Leaving Cert will have access to a digital paper, with a choice of how they access the exam materials.

"He did his summer exams via paper last June, and certain subjects were an absolute disaster," adds Eithne.

Massive difference

"This is going to make a massive difference, but it's also opening the way for others.

"Students should be able to access information in the way that they learn information," she said, paying tribute to CLM for their work on the case.

"Ruth and Community Law and Mediation went that stage further," she said, adding that it took the intervention of lawyers to get a result.

"I cannot stress that enough. I've done advocacy for years and years, and you'll go around in a very large circle, but this one was successful – and that was because of Community Law and Mediation."

"The whole process was a confidence builder for Cormac," his mother said.

"This process was very important for him; he really felt that he helped change it, and that's going to help him take back a little bit of control and say: 'I have the right to this'."


Eithne expresses the hope that other students will now benefit from the bid to break down what she describes as 'groupthink' at state-exam administrative level.

"There's a whole digital framework in schools, so why is the Leaving Cert kept as a standalone thing?

"The whole impetus behind this was the feedback from loads of other students, and a whole network of parents, who found the Leaving Cert a nightmare," she said.


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