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The scholarships were introduced in 2007, as part of the Corrib Gas Partners’ community investment programme in Erris, and in the three years of the scheme’s existence a total of 31 students from the four second-level colleges in the community have benefited.

The successful applicants are awarded grants of €4,000 each per year for the duration of their chosen course. In total, the initial three-year programme cost approximately €450,000.

Mr Carrigy said he was pleased that, following a review of the initial programme, SEPIL had decided to continue for another three years.

“Investment in the education of young people is important for the future of every community and I am delighted that we will be able to play a small part in the continued growth and development of Erris through this very worthwhile scheme,” he said.

The review was conducted by the Independent Scholarship Board, under the chairmanship of Seán Staunton. The review concluded that ten scholarships of €4,000 each would again be on offer to students attending Coláiste Chomáin, Ros Dumhach; Our Lady’s Secondary School, Belmullet; St Brendan’s College, Belmullet, and St Patrick’s, Lacken Cross.

An important departure from the initial programme will see the scholarships opened up to all students completing their Leaving Certs at any of the qualifying colleges in 2010. For the last three years the programme was open only to students pursuing courses in certain disciplines.

Scholarship Board chairman Seán Staunton paid tribute to SEPIL for agreeing to fund the programme for another three-year period.

“The scholarships are much sought-after and prized by the students. Over the three years there has been an excellent standard of application and great credit is due to the students, their teachers and their parents for their efforts,” he said.

The closing date for applications this year is Friday, April 16, and application forms will be available soon in the four colleges, from the Corrib Natural Gas office in Belmullet and online at www.corribgas.com.

The members of the scholarship Board are: Seán Staunton (Chairman), Westport; Breda Holmes, Geesala; Fr Kevin Hegarty, Carne; Ian McAndrew, Belmullet, and Tony McGarry, Killala.