Friday 19 January 2018

Six L-plates, five first-time passes... so who failed?

We asked some well-known faces about taking the test

Maura Derrane

Television presenter

I was not one of those people who turned 17 and got a driving licence – but then, Inis Mor is not known for its motorways.

I was about 20 when I learned to drive, and I can still remember that mixture of excitement and fear getting behind the wheel and taking control of my Volkswagen Golf.

For me, formal lessons were the best idea as you are being taught in a way that will help you pass your driving test. Also, the atmosphere can be a bit tense if a family member or boyfriend is teaching you to drive. And it worked.

I passed my test first time. I only stuck the L plate in the window the day I took my test, and it fell down on to the tester's lap. But I passed – and I've never looked back .

Keith Barry

Mentalist & Renault


My dad taught me to drive in a Citroen ZX when I was 18. He didn't know I had actually taken his car for a spin around Tramore car park when I was 14.

Most times it was fun, but it wasn't always smooth sailing. We nearly killed each other a few times, and there was one particular hill that caused a lot of arguments. As it turned out, it was a good idea and I passed first time. Being able to drive made such a difference to my life, both professionally and personally.

By the time I was 21 I had moved to Dublin and was working as a professional magician, so I needed a car to get from gig to gig, but it also gave me the freedom to explore places like the Cliffs of Moher, Dingle and parts of Ireland I never would have got to on public transport.

Even now, I always make a point of taking the family on a road trip around Ireland every year and exploring new places.

Tadhg Enright

Sky News business reporter

My cousin was a demon for manoeuvring his parents' car around their driveway, and I think he first put me behind the wheel. I can't remember how old I was, but I remember feeling utterly bewildered.

Years later when I started to study at DCU and was living at home with my folks in Castleknock, it was a straight choice between driving or taking two infrequent buses.

Mum and Dad individually took me out a couple of times to the Phoenix Park to show me the basics in Mum's Toyota Starlet. I did actually get lessons from a professional instructor, so I was devastated when I failed my test.

Looking back, though, I made a lot of mistakes, the worst among them being breaking a red light! But I did eventually pass the driving test, and my green VW Polo was invaluable when I landed my first job in broadcasting with East Coast FM in Bray.

Ian Madigan

Leinster rugby player

Memories of good friends and back roads spring to mind when I think back to the days when I was learning to drive.

While I was always a bit of a petrol head, by the time I was 17 I needed a faster way of getting to the gym or training. When it came to learning to drive, I relied totally on my friends and somehow managed to pass the test first time with only one formal lesson.

But the road to a full licence wasn't paved totally with fun – and forgetting to put the handbrake up far enough on my mother's car and knocking over the front wall in the family home was not one of the highlights.

Ciaran Crean

Founder of

Despite the fact that I was about 10 or 11 when I first got behind the wheel of a car, I didn't really have a burning desire to drive and get my licence as early as possible.

I was happy to leave it until post college and until I had my first job. The only access to a car at that time was in Mayo, and living close to the city in Dublin didn't really make for a need to drive. When I was about 22 I bought a Chrysler Neon 1.8 LX with my brother and took it from there. I decided to teach myself to drive, which was not a very good idea, so by the time of the test I had plenty of bad habits. But I passed, and my new-found freedom allowed me take my then girlfriend and now wife on hot dates to the cinema.

Niall McGarry

Owner of and

I was about 13 when I bought a Mark 2 Ford Escort for about 90 quid and used to rally around the (relatively) safe confines of a field beside my parents' house in Castlebar.

From there I learnt to drive, so by the time my 17th birthday came around I was ready to get on the road, with insurance and licence all in hand. So, in my parent's Citroen Saxo I set off filled with hope.

To be honest, the transition from field to open road was a steep learning curve. When it came to the driving test, I was taking no chances: Tuam had the best pass rate in the country, so I applied to do it there and it worked.

The first car I bought was an Alfa Romeo 156 in 2003 and I loved it. It didn't age very well, but who cares – every car fan should own an Alfa at some point.

Irish Independent

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