COMMENT: Invest in the future

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The news that Irish universities are, from next year, to be a little more welcoming to A-Level students in this country is welcome and long-awaited.

This newspaper has long argued that colleges in Ireland have not been sufficiently alert to the immense resource virtually on its doorstep – the children and grandchildren of Irish emigrants to this country.

Generations have grown up here bolstering Irish tourism statistics by visiting family in Ireland and, despite their accents, are every bit as Irish as their cousins over there and, in some extreme cases, even more so.

Despite this and the often utterly meaningless lip service paid to the “diaspora” there has never been a concerted to open Irish colleges’ doors to the children of hundreds of thousands of Irish families here.

There is more than just the enlightened self-interest of cheaper tuition at play here.

A deep, two-way, academically and professionally fertile relationship is there to be had – not least with the many tens of thousands of children of people who came here since 2008 starting to make their way through the school system.

For such a small nation with a huge history of emigration Ireland can seem to many of us outside the country to be, at best, ever so slightly insular. Ironic, given that Irish people are to be found throughout the Earth’s four corners.

A recent ESRI report suggests that too many Irish graduates are “overeducated” for the employment available there – JobBridge internships, call centres and so forth – but a steady two way traffic of UK Irish into Irish universities and workplaces in Britain and Ireland could open up employment opportunities in both islands as future employers here look kindly on their Irish alma maters.


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