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Lessons to the power of three

THERE'S no chance of mitching and hoping to get away with it at Ireland's smallest school.

All its three pupils, with the surname Heanue -- Nathan (10) and his cousins Ryan (7) and Katelyn (5) -- trudged up the hill to St Columba's National School, Inishturk, just after 9am yesterday.

The island, which has a population of 68, is nine miles off the Co Mayo coast.

As teacher Mary Monaghan began classes, community leaders expressed concern about the future of the school and the island itself.

"It is a big worry," said island development officer Mary Catherine Heanue. "There are no babies, nobody under five on the island at the moment."

It's all a far cry from 1990 when there were 24 pupils at the school. The population of Inishturk as a whole has been steadily declining. There are now only 68 inhabitants, 38 less than in 1980.

Irish Independent