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Bantry Credit Union celebrates scholarship scheme in fine style

October 4th, 2023 5:00 PM

By Jackie Keogh

Bantry Credit Union celebrates scholarship scheme in fine style Image
There was a great attendance at Bantry Credit Union’s celebration evening to mark the 20th anniversary of its scholarship scheme at Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí recently. Scholarship winners, adjudicating panel members, credit union officers past and present, school principals past and present, and visiting representatives of the Irish League of Credit Unions all attended the special ceremony. (Photo: Tony McElhinney)

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BANTRY Credit Union recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its scholarship scheme with a special gathering at Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí.

The event was attended by 16 of the 20 past winners, family members and adjudicators, as well as school principals, past and present, and credit union directors.

The emphasis, according to credit union manager Finbarr O’Shea, was to enjoy a social gathering with just a few formalities on the night. These formalities included the presentation by Anna Fitzgerald, the chairperson of Bantry Credit Union, of a personalised clock to each of the 20 scholarship scheme winners.

There were also presentations of commissioned paintings by local artist Danny Smith to the three stalwart adjudicators – Olive McCarthy, who is a senior lecturer at the Department of Food Business and Development and director of the Centre for Co-operative Studies at UCC, Denis O’Sullivan, the former deputy principal of Maria Immaculata Community College in Dunmanway, and James Kilduff, a lecturer in quantity surveying at MTU.

Anna Fitzgerald described the adjudicators as ‘the backbone of the scholarship awards for the past 20 years. We owe each of them a debt of gratitude.’

Finbarr O’Shea concurred saying: ‘Their commitment to this scholarship scheme is nothing short of phenomenal.’

Each of them has served on the adjudicating panel for 18 of the 20 years and as senior educators gave generously of their time despite their own full work schedules, he said.

The guest of honour was Martin Busch, the president of Irish League of Credit Unions, alongside the league’s CEO David Malone.

Martin said it was a privilege and an honour to attend the 20th anniversary celebration and said the wonderful attendance demonstrated the esteem in which Bantry Credit Union is held within the community.

The significance of the scheme and how it has the ability to change lives through education could be gauged by the decision of Noreen Crowley, who, unable to change her shift, drove directly to the event in Bantry after finishing at CUH at 7.45pm.

When Noreen was presented with the scholarship in 2019 she was stunned because she thought it was only available to Leaving Certificate students. In fact the scheme is open to anyone who is attending third-level education for the first time, either as a school-leaver or as a mature student. 

The scholarship – which also covers the three second-level schools of Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí, Bantry, Scoil Phobail Bhéara, Castletownbere, and Scoil Mhuire, Ballingeary, all of which are within the Bantry Credit Union area – is not confined to academic performance either. It is designed to reflect community spirit.

As a mature student, the mother of three took on a full-time honours degree course at UCC in Children’s and General Nursing, and hasn’t looked back since she qualified.

The scholarship scheme was set up in 2003 to mark the opening of Bantry Credit Union’s new premises on Wolfe Tone Square, and that was reflected in the paintings presented to the

As a tool for change, the scholarship originally had a financial value of €1,500 a year for up to four years, or €6,000 in total, but this year it was increased to €2,500 a year, or €10,000 in total.

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