Micheál Martin on the Leaving: ‘It’s fair but doesn’t measure the breadth of a person’s ability’

My Leaving: Taoiseach reflects on sitting the exams in Coláiste Chríost Rí in 1978

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has been leader of Fianna Fáil since 2011. The former minister for education started out his career as a history teacher in Presentation Brothers College, Cork. He sat the Leaving Cert in Coláiste Chríost Rí in Turner’s Cross, Cork in 1978.

Your most vivid exam memory?
Talking to my exam supervisor.

Your strongest subject?
English and history.

Most inspiring teacher and why?
Tony Power, my English teacher. He encouraged me to debate, to ask questions and to have an inquiring mind. My interests in politics and current affairs came from Tony Power.


In primary school, we had an innovative teacher in sixth class, Tom Lande. He had us doing broadcasts in the classroom called Around the World in 15 minutes. Work like that gave me a lot of confidence in writing and speaking.

How many points did you get?
It was a different examination system then. I did well enough to do arts in University College Cork, then did an MA in political history and a higher diploma in education to qualify as a teacher.

Is the exam fair?
Within narrow parameters, yes; the Leaving Cert is fair, yes. But it doesn't measure the breadth of a person's ability. It can be too inflexible and uses a limited range of methods for learning assessment.

What advice would you give your Leaving Cert self?
Be calm, confident and take the long view. Everything will work out!