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Third level supports for school leavers




By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors

The Higher Access to Education Route (HEAR) scheme is targeted at groups who are under-represented in higher education and as well as offering reduced points it also offers a number of academic, personal and social supports throughout the student’s journey in college.

To be eligible, applicants must meet a range of financial, social and cultural indicators. Students must meet Indicator 1 (low income) and a specific combination of two other indicators which include – medical/GP visit cards, means-tested Social Welfare payments, occupation status of parent of guardian (socio-economic group), disadvantaged status of the school (DEIS) and local area. Other factors considered include young people who are in the care of the State, HSE or TUSLA.


A number of places are reserved in higher education courses for applicants who qualify for HEAR. This means that it is possible for applicants to get offered a place if they have not made the cut-off points, however many HEAR applicants do achieve the required points each year. It is important to note that applicants must still meet the minimum and subject requirements for the particular course. Students and parents sometimes confuse the HEAR scheme with the student grant. Students who are eligible for grants, and who may or may not be eligible for HEAR, must apply separately to Supports provided to eligible students include an orientation, extra tuition if needed, study skills and exam preparation, one-to-one meetings with student advisors, social gatherings (when permitted), mentoring, and extra financial assistance when available as well as advice regarding grants and scholarships.

Deadlines and Application Process

Once students have applied to the CAO on by the February 1 deadline, they then have until March 1 to indicate that they wish to be considered for the HEAR scheme and to complete the HEAR form through their CAO account. After this, all supporting documentation must be posted to arrive with CAO by 5pm on March 15. All deadlines are strict and non-negotiable so it is important to start applications well in advance of the final dates, to avoid unnecessary stress. The supporting documentation required for HEAR applicants will depend on the individual circumstances of the household. It is important to keep photocopies of all documents being posted, put the applicant name and CAO number on each document that is sent, as well as getting proof of postage.

The HEAR scheme seeks to widen opportunities in higher education for students coming from a group that is under-represented in higher education. Supports offered through the scheme not only assist students to get into college but also help them to settle in and get through the course. This ensures that students who have faced personal and educational disadvantage and challenges get every chance to achieve their qualification and progress onto successful careers. Over the years I have seen the enormous benefits for students who avail of HEAR and other access routes and the support of staff in Access offices in the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) is invaluable to applicants and parents. For further details see,, and individual HEI websites.

Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, and Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She is also a Career Consultant. For details see



Valuable role of Kerry cancer support charity recognised nationally



Cancer support charity Recovery Haven Kerry has been recognised for its vital role in supporting cancer patients and their families at a national ceremony in Dublin.

The renowned cancer support house was one of 16 such centres across Ireland that were presented with plaques to acknowledge their full membership of the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) Alliance – a group made up of voluntary and charity organisations delivering support services directly to cancer patients and their families. An additional 10 associate member charities were also honoured, including Kerry Cancer Support Group.

The Alliance advocates for, and supports, the development of integrated pathways between the cancer centres, acute hospitals, community cancer support services and primary care services. All members’ development is in line with the values of Sláintecare, seeking to provide assurance to healthcare professionals that these organisations are working to an agreed standard as set out in Best Practice Guidance published by the NCCP. 

Speaking after the ceremony, which was held at Dublin’s Farmleigh Estate, Recovery Haven Kerry Chairman, Tim McSwiney, explained that being compliant with the Best Practice Guidance for Community Cancer Support Centres is a true mark of quality. 

“It offers us a yardstick to measure what we are doing against the standards required. As a result, healthcare professionals have more confidence in referring people to our services. We are very proud to be a member of the Alliance,” he said.

Recovery Haven Kerry was represented at the event by centre manager, Gemma Fort and Client Services Co-Ordinator, Siobhan MacSweeney and were presented with their plaque by NCCP Lead for Cancer Survivorship, Louise Mullen, Clinical Lead for Psycho-Oncology Dr Helen Greally, and Minister of State at the Department of Health, Colm Burke. 

The event was also used as an opportunity to announce funding of €3m for the NCCP’s Alliance of Community Cancer Support Centres and Services through Budget 2024. The NCCP is currently in the process of distributing these funds which will directly and positively impact the delivery of services for patients and families nationally.

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‘More Precious Than Gold’ book launch



At the official book launch of ‘More Precious Than Gold: My enduring connection with John McShain – the man who built Washington’ by Alice O’Neill-McLoughlin at Killarney House, was Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, T.D.

Alice was born the eldest of eleven children into an Irish farming family in Rosbercon, New Ross, County Wexford. In 1978, she was awarded a scholarship from John McShain- the iconic builder, philanthropist, devout Catholic with Derry ancestry, responsible for many famous American landmarks, including the Jefferson Memorial and the Pentagon.

Her book records the lifelong personal correspondence Alice exchanged with ‘The Man Who Built Washington.’ His philanthropy extended to the Irish people in the bequeathing to the State of Killarney House and the surrounding thousands of acres incorporating the Lakes, Ross Castle, and Innisfallen Island. In 2019, Alice had the honour of inducting John McShain into the Irish America Hall of Fame in her home town of New Ross in the presence of his relatives from Philadelphia and Derry. This is a tale of altruism, of gratitude, of faith and of a life lived in the pursuit of excellence.

Alice also donated her treasured correspondence of letters from John McShain for the archive at Killarney House. Also in attendance were Members of the Ignatius A. O’Shaughnessy family, who was founder of The Globe Oil and Refining Company – and part of a consortium of wealthy American businessmen who were going to purchase the lakes of Killarney as a Country Club in the 1950’s.

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