Queer Irish play Once Before I Go added to Leaving Cert English syllabus

Dublin-based playwright Philly McMahon joins the likes of William Shakespeare and Euripides in the curriculum for the 2025 examination.

An image from the play Once Before I Go at the Gate Theatre.
Image: Twitter: @GateTheatreDub

Once Before I Go, a queer Irish play written by Phillip ‘Philly’ McMahon, has been added to the Leaving Certificate English syllabus. The announcement came on Wednesday, March 29, as the Department of Education revealed the subject’s prescribed material for the 2025 examination.

The work is included as one of the possible dramas to study in the comparative section of the curriculum for both Higher and Ordinary Level students. Joining it is The Ferryman by Jez Butterworth, Medea by Euripides, A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, Sive by John B Keane, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, Kindertransport by Diane Samuels and both King Lear and The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare.

Reacting to the news on Twitter, McMahon described it as “a huge honour…Just magic!”

Commenting to GCN, he added: “It shows how far education and Ireland has come when it comes to platforming and showcasing LGBTQ+ voices. I’m personally taking this as a win for working-class and queer artists and look forward to engaging with students across Ireland in the next couple of years.”

Once Before I Go premiered at Dublin’s Gate Theatre in October 2021, marking the venue’s reopening after 18 months of closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It charts 40 turbulent years of LGBTQ+ existence across Dublin, London and Paris, in a show that sits on the edge between comedy, tragedy and melodrama.


Speaking to GCN ahead of its release almost two years ago, McMahon said, “It’s a celebration of queer community, it’s a celebration of queer family: the idea that, more than other tribes, we create our families because often we have run from our own families.

“These people in this play have built their own family and so it’s a gorgeous celebration of that, plus the messiness of who we are.”

Many expressed their excitement about having this queer text included on the Leaving Cert syllabus, with one Twitter user saying: “Fantastic that students will get to read and study queer experiences and viewpoints. Would have loved something like this on the curriculum back when I was doing it.”

Others, including Tonie Walsh and National LGBT Federation Chairperson Anna Nolan, also offered their congratulations.



In addition to writing Once Before I Go, Philly McMahon has worked on many other exciting and impressive projects and is also the Co-Director of THISISPOPBABY.

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