The Department of Education has announced changes to the way schools grant Irish exemptions to students.
The new rules only apply to English-speaking schools.
From September, pupils in special schools or special classes in mainstream schools will not need to apply for an exemption.
A psychological assessment will no longer be necessary to process an application.
The decision whether to grant an exemption will continue to be made by the school principal.
However, an appeals system will be introduced - with a proposal for a board which would meet twice a year to consider cases that cannot be resolved at school level.
Education officials have stressed that generally students will only be granted exemptions "in rare and exceptional circumstances".
The changes come following a public consultation, with more than 11,000 people responding to the survey between December 2018 and January 2019.
Education Minister Joe McHugh said the overhaul is "long overdue".
He explained: "By making key changes the system will be fairer and more supportive of students while at the same time ensuring that all children have equal access to study the Irish language.
“The decision to grant an exemption from the study of Irish should not be taken lightly.
"It is an important decision that will have implications for the student’s future learning."
He suggested the benefits of bilingualism and studying a language from a young age "are becoming better understood" - saying it can help with mental agility, as well as making it easier to learn a third language.
Minister McHugh thanked everyone who responded during the public consultation, noting there was a "phenomenal level of interest".