The Department of Employment and Learning is to double its funding of a US scholarship programme, it announced yesterday.
Employment Minister Sir Reg Empey announced the funding boost to the George J Mitchell scholarship — named in honour of the former US peace envoy — during his visit to Washington.
The department has given $42,000 per year to the programme, in its tenth year and co-funded by the Irish government and the US Department of State.
Sir Reg said: “The Mitchell scholarship programme provides an excellent profile for Northern Ireland universities in the United States and it is important that my department is able to continue to support it.
“The scholarship not only continues to emphasise and recognise the importance of higher education both in Northern Ireland and in the United States — it also plays an important role in helping to strengthen US-Northern Ireland cooperation and partnerships.”
He said he had met the current crop of Mitchell scholars and said the were “great ambassadors” for Northern Ireland in the States. “I wish them every success in their continued study and in the world of work,” the minister added.
Trina Vargo, president of the US-Ireland Alliance which runs the programme, said: “We are very grateful to Sir Reg, the department and the Northern Ireland Government for its support.
“This partnership of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the US Congress is evidence of how we can all work together to strengthen the ties between our countries by introducing future American leaders to the island.”
Around 300 Americans apply for the scholarship to study in Ireland every year.