125 high-achieving school-leavers receive scholarships under JP McManus scheme

‘My reaction when I opened it? Happiness and relief. It lifted a lot of the financial burden on us. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make ends meet’

 

More than 100 high-achieving school-leavers from low-income families will receive scholarships on Saturday for third-level education under an initiative established by Limerick billionaire businessman and racehorse owner JP McManus.

The value of each scholarship is set at €6,750 per year (£5,500 in the North) and continues for the duration of the undergraduate programmes chosen by the scholarship winners.

McManus, a tax resident of Switzerland who made his fortune through currency trading and gambling, established the all-Ireland scholarships programme in 2008 as a partnership with education authorities.

The scholarship programme is set to run for the next decade, benefiting more than 1,000 students from less well-off backgrounds.

As part of the programme, the Department of Education identifies the two best Leaving Cert results in each of the 26 countries, along with the next 48 most successful results countrywide. Eligible students in the Republic must be in receipt of medical cards.

A similar process occurs in the North following the publication of A-level results. Eligible students must be in receipt of the educational maintenance allowance, paid to low-income families.

In an event due to be attended by Mr McManus and Minister of State with responsibility for higher education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, scholarships will be awarded to 125 students.

Darragh McAuliffe, 18, from Listowel, Co Kerry, who is among the recipients, said he was shocked and surprised to receive the scholarship.

“I was at home and my mother came in with an envelope with my name on it,” he said.

“My reaction when I opened it? Happiness and relief. It lifted a lot of the financial burden on us. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make ends meet.”

McAuliffe, who is now studying theoretical physics at Trinity College Dublin, achieved a total of 813 points in the Leaving Cert with seven H1 grades and one H2.

He said his father, a self-employed electrician, worked “ridiculous hours” to support the family, while his mother has been unable to work after developing health problems.

“It’s great not to have any financial worries or to put my parents under any pressure,” he said.

Hollie Roper, 18, another scholarship recipient from Donegal town, is studying veterinary medicine in UCD. Both her parents are self-employed.

She attended Abbey Vocational School and paid tribute to the “nurturing and holistic” education in helping her to fulfil her potential.

She said her veterinary course was “fascinating and fulfilling”, while she also has made time for her other passions of baking and sport – especially rugby.

Participation in the scholarship scheme in the Republic is confined to the 15,000 or so Leaving Cert students on medical cards in more than 650 non-private secondary schools.

In the North, it is limited to students who attend grant-aided post-primary schools or Further Education Colleges and are in receipt of the educational maintenance allowance.

There is no application process for the programme in the Republic and award- winners are automatically notified.

In the North, successful students have to make an application to secure an award and this requirement is promoted extensively in the post-primary schools and further education colleges.