THE Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, has called on wealthy people across the country to follow the lead of businessman JP McManus by establishing third-level scholarships schemes.
Mr Noonan was speaking at the Dunraven Arms Hotel in Adare during the annual JP McManus Scholarship Awards ceremony.
The scholarships, which are presented to the eight highest performing leaving cert students at CBS Sexton Street, were first established 1997.
Mr Noonan told those present that JP McManus should be commended for his foresight 16 years ago.
“Education is extraordinarily important, people who get a real chance in education, their lives can change completely. If you are trying to get people to move forward and to get into more enhancing lifestyles and not only be more successful in life but to contribute to their country and their community and be self-fulfilled education is obviously the key,” he said.
Mr Noonan said many of the past recipients of scholarships have gone on to achieve great things in their lives having been given a chance in education “thanks to JP’s initiative”.
He added: “I would like if other wealthy people in the country, who have an interest in philanthropy, would get involved in maybe sponsoring scholarships in secondary schools they attended themselves. Maybe what started with JP’s endowment at Sexton Street could be replicated in many parts of the country because there is no more potent input into society than investment in education and the public sector - which is strapped for cash - certainly needs the assistance of people like JP to give that lift- up to certain students.”
Each of the scholarships are worth €6,750 per year and since the scholarship scheme was first established more than €2million has been spent assisting more than 120 pupils during their third-level studies.
The scholarship scheme is administered by four trustees including Noel Earlie and Eddie Fallon, former principals of CBS Sexton Street.
All eight of this year’s recipients are attending third level institutions in Limerick and the importance of the scheme was confirmed by the attendance of the presidents of the University of Limerick, Mary Immaculate College and LIT at the awards ceremony.
One of this year’s recipients, Nepalese national Jhabi Lal Kharel, says the scheme inspired him when he first started school.
“I saw the brochure and I realised there was an opportunity and it motivated me to study and work harder and get a better leaving cert,” he said.
Stephen Riordan from Kennedy Park in the city said: “I would have been able to go college [without a scholarship] but it is good to have the means and the money and take the pressure off my parents. There are a lot of costs such as the increase in fees books, travel and you don’t really realise how much money you spend.”
Eoin Lynch from Ballyneety is the second member of his family to receive a JP McManus scholarship.
He says the 2009 success of his brother, Rory, was a major incentive for him over the last two years.
“It was a major motivation for me because I saw the benefit to him of getting a scholarship award and it added extra motivation for me,” he said adding that “it took a while to sink in” when he received notification in the post that he had been awarded a scholarship.
JP McManus has praised all of this year’s recipients and those who helped them achieve their success.
“Their success would not have been attained without the unwavering support and guidance shown by their parents throughout their school years. I would also like to compliment the teachers who have worked extremely hard to get their pupils here.”
Cathaoirleach of Limerick County Council, Cllr Jerome Scanlan, says the scholarship scheme is hugely important.
“I think the support is a great incentive to young people who might not have the opportunity or the financial means of getting to third level. This particular awards set is there and it is there to support them,” he said.
The Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Gerry McLoughlin also attended the awards ceremony and the special guest on the night was Prof Declan Lyons, who is a past-pupil of CBS Sexton Street.