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Speech by Minister Deenihan at the Fulbright Awards Ceremony

Irish Abroad, MoS Jimmy Deenihan, Speech, Ireland, North America, 2015


Fulbright Awards Ceremony
Iveagh House
2 June 2015
Remarks by the Minister Deenihan

Ambassador O’Malley

Members of the Fulbright Board,
Distinguished guests,

Welcome to Iveagh House. I am delighted to welcome you all here this evening for this special awards ceremony where we will celebrate the 31 successful Irish Fulbright Awardees for 2015-2016.

It is good to see so many distinguished representatives from the educational sector here. This is a very special occasion for the successful Fulbright applicants and their families. This is their night and everyone here wishes them every success in the projects they are about to undertake.

I also want to extend the warmest of welcomes to the US Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin O’Malley. Thank you, Ambassador, for joining us this evening.

Ireland’s close relationship with the US is a fundamental aspect of our foreign policy and I welcome the continued cooperation in the field of education through the Fulbright programme. It is now 58 years since the Fulbright Commission began its work in Ireland in 1957 and I would like to pay a warm tribute to the role that the Commission has played in deepening the close relations enjoyed by the United States and Ireland.

All good relationships are based on friendship. In the case of Ireland and the US these often depend on family and historic ties. Exchange programmes, like Fulbright, are a wonderful way to deepen and broaden those ties, to forge new friendships and to create new cultural, educational and business relationships.

Diversity is at the heart of the Fulbright Programme and the broad range of disciplines represented - science, Irish language, medicine, law, engineering, technology among others – is a credit to the many talents of the Irish scholars.

Throughout the last 58 years Fulbright scholars have returned from their time in the US to make valuable contributions to Irish life in a wide variety of disciplines.

The range of specialist knowledge amongst Fulbright Awardees makes them a very strong group of representatives for Ireland.

This year’s awards reflect rapid global developments in digital technology. Through the Fulbright TechImpact Awards and the Fulbright - University of Notre Dame TechImpact Scholar Awards, six awardees will explore digital advancement in areas such as wearable sensing technologies, app development and language-learning resources.

The Fulbright Scholar in Residence award reflects the ever increasing interest in Irish history and culture in the US. This year, one Irish scholar will teach an introductory course in Irish History from the earliest records to the present day at the University of Montana.

Ireland’s recently published Diaspora policy, “Global Irish” commits to, “connecting in an inclusive way with those, of all ages, around the world who are Irish, of Irish descent or have a tangible connection to Ireland, and wish to maintain a connection with Ireland and with each other.”

In this context I very much welcome the fact that 9 institutions across New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Washington DC, North Carolina, Montana and Idaho, will host Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants from Ireland to teach the Irish language to US students this year. Ireland will also welcome 67 Summer Gaeltacht Awardees from the US to learn the Irish language.

What better way of building or maintaining a tangible connection with Ireland than through the Irish language. Guím ádh mór ar na múinteoirí agus na mic léinn uilidh.

I also want to congratulate 2014-2015 US Awardees who are present tonight, and are coming to the end of their scholarship in Ireland. I hope you enjoyed the experience and will maintain your friendships and connections with Ireland for the rest of your lives. You will always be welcome here.

The selection process for Fulbright is tough. I would like to put on record our thanks and appreciation for the hard work undertaken by the Fulbright Board, under the direction of the Chairperson, Professor John Hegarty.

I also wish to publicly acknowledge the presence of Colleen Dube who has been Executive Director of Fulbright in Ireland over the past 8 years. Colleen’s contribution has been key to ensuring a strong Fulbright programme in Ireland, and I want to sincerely thank her on behalf of the Irish government for her efforts. We wish her the very best in her new role as chief executive of “Uversity.”

Finally to our departing scholars, let me express how proud we are of you.

Your time in the United States will be a formative experience, bringing fresh insights and opportunities. It won’t be a one-way street and I am sure you will have much to offer the colleges and universities where you will be working.

Make the most of it and, when you return, remember to keep in touch through the Alumni Association and through the networks you are about to create.

Congratulations again and we wish you all every success in your studies.