Army students soldier on to success in Leaving Cert

Congratulations all round as adults returning to education get their Leaving results

“I am here with the Minister for Education and she wants to talk to you” said Michael Barry (37), as he phoned through his results to his wife, Leonie.

If she minded the slight misrepresentation of her title, the Minister for State at the Department of Education wasn’t saying. It was too good a moment to worry about the small stuff.

“Leonie, is that you?” asked Mary Mitchell O’Connor, taking the phone. “Michael has done really well.” She read the results out over the phone as Mr Barry looked on, chuffed, if a little bemused.

An Army recruit, Mr Barry studied for the Leaving Certificate at Pearse College, Crumlin, for “a sense of achievement”. But also because he wanted to be an Army paramedic, and “you need the Leaving Certificate for the course even if you are a mature student”. It was his first time to sit the Leaving Cert, having left school in Ballyfermot before that exam, he explained, as Ms Mitchell O’Connor passed back the phone.


“Job done,” he said to his wife.

“Job well done” said Ms Mitchell O’Connor as she went on to congratulate other graduates who were comparing notes in the school yard. School principal Jacqui Nunan said Pearse College has been teaching adult Leaving Cert courses for 50 years and each year gets “about 10 enrolments from the Army”.

Army students

This year three of the Army students enrolled so they might take part in the paramedics course. Among them was Jonathan Lunnisden (34) whose interest is in emergency medical training, and Liam Kieran (32) who said he wants to be a paramedic but also wants to do a course to become a sergeant.

There are thousands of pathways, many, many courses and colleges out there

Also receiving his Leaving Cert results was Thabang Baikakedi (22) from Botswana who wants to become an architectural technician. Mr Baikakedi said he was not happy with his results. However the school’s vice-principal Patricia O’Keeffe interrupted to say he had only started to learn English three years ago and doing a Leaving Certificate at all was a “tremendous achievement”.

“He may even be able to do architectural technician training here with us,” she said.

Ms Nunan said the typical student at the all-adult college was a male aged 40 and she said there were a myriad of courses to choose from, including a horticulture course whose members were busy tending the school garden.

It was a theme taken up by Ms Mitchell O’Connor who said she would appeal to all students who got results on Wednesday to go online particularly if disappointed. “There are thousands of pathways, many, many courses and colleges out there. I would encourage anyone to go online and find a pathway that suits them”.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist