Dáil Éireann - Volume 407 - 18 April, 1991
Educational Exchange (Ireland and the United States of America) Bill, 1991: Second Stage (Resumed).
Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Mr. Cullimore Mr. Cullimore
Mr. Cullimore: I welcome this Bill warmly and compliment the Minister on bringing it before the House. The Bill proposes to establish a commission for educational exchange between Ireland and the US. In general terms it represents an important contribution to the cultural side of Ireland's external relationships and, in particular, it stresses the close ties that exist between our countries. These ties have a long and honourable history and have been defined in a number of ways politically and economically. However, of equal or even more importance are those connections that derive from people. Therefore, I welcome this Bill as a major step in the evolution of culture or what I might call people-centred diplomacy. I know the Government have been active in this area in recent years and in this connection I commend the Minister on the very positive direction he has taken in increasing the number of bilateral cultural agreements and joint commissions. Not only have we bilateral cultural agreements with European countries but with the cultural blocs of Asia and Africa.
This Bill is a continuation of this policy and will give the citizens of Ireland and America an opportunity to better understand their traditions and culture, especially in areas of education and research. The proposed commission will replace the Scholarship Exchange Board which have operated since 1957. In the intervening years this board and its  associated organisation, the Cultural Relations Committee, have worked very well. In 1988 the Government confirmed the importance of their work by doubling their funding. By establishing this commission the important work of educational research and cultural activities will be put on a sound and solid footing.
It is important for any Government not to confine themselves exclusively to the relationship of politics and economics. It is important also to develop cultural diplomacy, not only for its own sake but for the benefit of the organisations and institutions which are doing excellent work in this area. In the United States one of the leading institutions of this kind is the American Cultural Institute. This organisation was founded in 1962 for the specific purpose of fostering an appreciation of Irish culture and traditions and to give Americans a better opportunity to understand the traditions and culture of our country. For several years this organisation has been organising and sponsoring all types of Irish related cultural activities and research and organising the stocking of libraries with books on Irish history and culture.
The awards given by the institute every year are well known but there are several other aspects to the institute's work such as the Irish Fortnight Programme, the Irish Luncheon Circle, Irish Books and Media and the Irish Perception Project. I want to highlight the Irish Way programme which is designed for American high school students and gives them an opportunity to visit this country to study our culture and history and to use our research and educational facilities. Programmes like this also constitute an important part of the cultural relationship between Ireland and the United States. I hope that people like Dr. Eoin McKiernan, the very much respected president of the institute, will not be ignored by the proposed commission when they draw up a specific agenda.
A number of other organisations such as the Ireland Fund are well known and well funded and there are many more. While visiting America last year I met the  members of the Wexford Countymen's Association who not only operate as a social club but provide invaluable help to visitors and immigrants from Ireland. They are an important part of the people-based relationship between Ireland and America. Obviously both countries derive a special closeness and uniqueness from this friendship.
I know that the proposed commission will not involve themselves formally with these organisations but they are not mutually exclusive. Just as these American societies and organisations provide opportunities in their way, so also will the commission. The commission will stand as a clear signal from both Governments to these organisations that they recognise the worth-while work they are doing. The establishment of the commission is also important in that it builds on and extends the commitment to a cultural relationship with the United States. This commitment was greatly enhanced by the visit of President Kennedy in 1963 when he addressed this House. We in Wexford take special pride in President Kennedy's career. The Irish people regard him not only as a symbol of Ireland's contribution to the development of America but as a symbol of how, in that unique society we call the United States, loyalty to the so-called new world, citizenship of the United States and a feeling for the traditions and culture of Ireland are not incompatible. To me President Kennedy symbolises the traditional link and the traditional opportunity which this commission will foster, strengthen and open up to the citizens of our two countries.
As a Wexford man I also take great pride in Commodore John Barry, the founder of the American Navy. Michael Murphy, one of Wexford's famous sons, is a great authority on Barry and does not lose any opportunity to educate visitors about his career. People like him are symbolic of the essence of the real strength of the Irish-American relationship. In places like Wexford where there is such a strong sense of history and where we are aware of local emigrants making good, perhaps the commission should  include within their remit local projects and local expertise designed to publicise and highlight men like Barry and Kennedy, both of whom are commemorated in Wexford. Barry Day is one of the great events in the Wexford calendar. I can proudly say that the Kennedy National Park is one of the best of its kind. Wexford promotes these connections and these commemorations in the United States as part of our drive to attract more tourists. Just as this proposed commission is part of a wider policy to strengthen our cultural links abroad, these links should not be put in a separate box. They should not be separated from the approach of Bord Fáilte as they seek to attract tourists on theme holidays.
This proposed commission will build on the great tradition established by the Fulbright Hays programme. It will also build on a more personal view of the Irish-American relationship, particularly as symbolised by these American citizens of Irish descent who are at the heart of this relationship.
Mr. J. Higgins Mr. J. Higgins
Mr. J. Higgins: I welcome this measure, not in the same glowing, effusive terms as Deputy Cullimore in his enjoyable dissertation on the boys of Wexford and Wexford history.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle Jim Tunney
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Some form of telepathic intuition encouraged Deputy Cullimore to use the word “commission” in circumstances which were not entirely relevant to the legislation before us. However, he succeeded in making it appear relevant.
Mr. J. Higgins Mr. J. Higgins
Mr. J. Higgins: It will read very well in the Wexford Leader. The measure before the House is a rather humble one but a good prototype which we could usefully emulate. The idea of education exchange is something we have underplayed and undernurtured but it has tremendous scope and potential and could be invaluable in getting us away from the insularity by which we are sometimes sheltered. I fail to understand why it has taken so long to formalise the commission within a legislative framework.
 I welcome the idea of educational exchange. It is absolutely vital. It increases our understanding and provides incentives for the emulation of excellence. Above all else it helps us let up the blinds in Irish society to let in the critical daylight and provide comparisons with other systems, schemes and cultures. It provides also valuable insights into how others live and go about their business. I join with Deputy Michael Higgins in welcoming the cultural interplay which inevitably will take place if we foster and nurture this type of development.
One of the disappointments with our membership of the EC which is singularly noticeable over the years is that at various meetings of the Council of Ministers, there has been very little emphasis on meetings between Ministers for Education within the Community. Within the Council of Europe there are certain informal meetings from time to time but if education is to be taken as the vital social, political and economic instrument it is for the development of society we need to move towards a greater cohesion in education. As we are on the brink of 1992 we should make a special effort to try to foster exchange between the educational systems in other countries. I come from a town in the west where we have developed the concept of town twinning. We have developed links between towns in various parts of France but one notes that this is basically left to local initiative and there is very little encouragement or prompting from official agencies, particularly the Department of Education. Twinning operations provide valuable exchange and insights but we seem to think of twinning our towns with towns in France to the exclusion of the vast majority of countries within the Community. Recently I asked the Minister for Education the number of second level schools which provide two continental languages. I believe that in the entire country somewhere in the region of 140 schools provide two continental languages. The majority of schools emphasise the importance of French, 140 schools provide French and German, 40 schools provide Spanish and  20 schools provide Italian. The remaining EC languages are not provided for. I also asked the Minister for Education how many of our second level schools have language laboratories but she was not in a position to tell me. I am not sure whether the Minister was being evasive because I believe that somewhere within the Department there is official documentation on language laboratories since they are all grant aided by her Department.
Cultural exchange in a country which has found it particularly difficult to come to terms with our dá theangacht, bilingualism in English and Irish, is particularly important in providing the necessary bridgehead between us and our EC partners. Apart from the initiative launched for third level students there will have to be a definite policy at second level to encourage and provide greater liaison and interchange of students and teachers between Ireland and our EC partners.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle Jim Tunney
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is Deputy Higgins following the example of Deputy Cullimore?
Mr. J. Higgins Mr. J. Higgins
Mr. J. Higgins: Deputy Higgins is merely using this measure as a prototype that might usefully be emulated by the Minister for Education in promoting further cultural exchange.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle Jim Tunney
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Higgins knows that in respect of the legislation before us he is entitled to say what could be included but he has admitted that what he is seeking would have to be provided by the Minister for Education.
Mr. J. Higgins Mr. J. Higgins
Mr. J. Higgins: That is correct. Deputy Higgins thanks the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for his even handed approach as always.
Not alone can this scheme provide useful bridgeheads between this country and our EC partners but there is enormous scope for North-South links. Apart  from odd isolated individual pilot projects there is very little by way of North-South initiative. We might usefully look within the confines of the Thirty-two Counties for further prototypes which might usefully come within the remit of cultural exchange.
I welcome this measure, unfortunately it is only a beginning but I hope we can build on it and I look forward in future years to further promotions and initiatives of this sort.
Mr. O'Donoghue Mr. O'Donoghue
Mr. O'Donoghue: As a Kerryman I was most interested in Deputy Cullimore's address. He stated that President Kennedy's ancestors came from Wexford. As I come from the next parish in this country to America I feel as qualified as the Deputy to speak on US-Irish relations. I would go one better than Deputy Cullimore and enshrine for all time the fact that a Kerryman with an inferiority complex is merely one who feels he is as good as everybody else. Let me say that it has been wisely stated in Irish history that a Kerryman founded America — Saint Brendan, who left from Brandon Bay.
The intertwined history of Ireland and the United States can never be denied. The cultural and educational links and the identities of the two countries are extremely close. This is the result of historical factors of emigration from the time of the Famine. I am delighted to see an improvement in educational exchanges between this country and the United States. It is a tribute not just to American education but in particular to our own very high standard of education of which we can be extremely proud. It is fair to say that American students could travel to many countries in the world before they would hit learning and educational establishments as fine as exist in this country. From universities to regional colleges across the length and breadth of this country we can be extremely proud of the standard of learning and achievement. US citizens coming to Ireland can look forward to one of the finest educational environments in the entire world. Down through the years  Irish people, whether of necessity or otherwise, have been extremely interested in education and our second level colleges, universities and regional colleges have produced some of the finest students in the world. Equally in the United States specialties which are not available here but are available there can be availed of by scholars leaving this country under exchange programmes. If I had to add a reservation it would be that the Bill confines itself to the cream of the Irish educational establishments and does not appear to address in any meaningful way the needs of those with lesser ability. It would be desirable that the Government, in conjunction with the US Government, would seriously consider the possibility of extending the sphere of influence to those who would not be as highly academically qualified as those for whom this Bill is intended. If one is to have a meaningful cultural or educational exchange programme one cannot confine it to what I would describe as an elitist group, however deserving the elitism may be.
It is absolutely essential that the experience and benefits gained from this type of journey and idea be spread across Irish society as opposed to being confined to the few. It is my belief that the Bill before the House today will help to dispel a myth which has grown all too sadly in American and Irish society, that somehow there is within this country what might be described, within parentheses, as an anti-American bias. That does not exist. Even on the part of those politicians who at times have been most critical of the USA it would be fair to say they did so on philosophical grounds rather than on any ground of bias against the United States. In this connection I must mention that some of those, for example, most critical of the circumstances in which President Bush became engaged in the Gulf War were the first to condemn him afterwards for not intervening in relation to the Kurds. Such people were right on the second occasion but were certainly wrong on the first; history has proved that to be correct.
 Of course learning broadens one's horizons. I think it was Davis who said: educate that you may be free. In addition I believe one's horizons must be broadened, and travel broadens the mind. In this connection it is my sincere hope that those who benefit from the provisions of this Bill on this side of the Atlantic will return home and deliver our people the learning, experience and additional education they have gained. I should like to see some provisions included in the Bill stipulating a requirement, or absolute condition, that there be some kind of retribution to Irish taxpayers by those who benefit from this extraordinarily good scheme. It is entirely desirable that those who would benefit from the scheme would not participate merely as a means of advancing their personal careers but would do so in order to advance the cause of the people who educated them here at primary, secondary and third level. I know that the scheme is US-financed and that it would be difficult to impose such conditions. Nonetheless it is desirable that such sentiments be expressed and that, with a view to assisting less-developed countries in the future, the United States Government would accept such a principle from Governments worldwide.
I sincerely hope that the provisions of the Bill can be extended to include a greater proportion of our academically qualified people and others because the pursuit of excellence in one of the noblest human aspirations and ideals. It is my belief that this idea couild be extended, in the cultural and other fields into the American and Irish ways of life. Many American citizens have their roots here, many are ethnic Irish prople. It is natural that they would be interested in their roots, in the genealogy, archaeology and history of this country. It is appropriate that we pursue that line as far as possible to the mutual benefit and advantage of our respective peoples.
Mr. Deenihan Mr. Deenihan
Mr. Deenihan: I welcome the establishment of the Ireland-United States Commission for Educational Exchange. The more contacts and communication  there are with the United States the better it will be for this country. For example, on the industrial front at present there are in excess of 350 US companies here employing 47 per cent of the total workforce of foreign industrialists. We have very close ties with America not merely in the educational field but also within industry.
The provisions of this Bill will afford many of our top graduates an opportunity to gain further experience in the technological, cultural, literary and other fields. That must be welcomed. It will afford many of our graduates opportunities to attend colleges such as Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Yale, Princeton and others, which will enhance their future contribution to this country.
Beyond this arrangement or scheme there is no shortage of offers to our graduates to travel to America, Japan and elsewhere, in that Irish graduates are much sought after and respected worldwide. I happened to be in San José recently where I met a number of Irish graduates. They were doing very well in the Silicone Valley and now comprise some of the top scientists and executives there, widely respected and recognised for their expertise and educational backgrouind. What worries me is that large numbers of our graduates who go abroad will not return, being snapped up by multinational companies and others. That is one aspect that worries me about this exchange. While it is a very positive development, nonetheless it must be acknowledged that we will lose some of our top people if they go to the United States; that is happening already. For example, of the total numbers of students who graduated from the Chemistry Faculty in UCD over the past five to ten years 20 per cent only returned here, 80 per cent remaining in the United States. Each year five of the 30 graduates from the Chemical Engineering Faculty in UCD go to America, many of whom will never return.
I met one individual who had participated in a FÁS course in Japan. I am  sure there are several others like him. He was snapped up by one of Japan's top companies, Ricoh, worldwide, and is now working with them in the Silicone Valley as a scientist and doing very well. In addition, one of our “Young Scientists of the Year” was recently snapped up by a large American corporation. Not only was he employed by them but was given his own laboratory to carry out whatever research he wanted there. This brings me back to the question of: what support do we give our post-graduates here? There is very little incentive given any of our post-graduates to remain and undertake research work here. Indeed the amount of resources we provide for post-graduate work here is steadily decreasing. One can now observe several laboratories in our universities being closed. That is a serious indictment of our policy vis-à-vis the future of our post-graduates, our general attitude to post-graduate work here.
I must confess to being very pro-American. I feel we can only gain from the greater Ireland beyond, in that there are 40 million Americans who claim Irish descent. There is enormous goodwill in America toward Ireland. There is a vast resource out there ready and willing to be tapped if only we had the will to do so. Some of the best people to do so are our graduates who have impressed American society in several fields already be it corporate, scientific, or whatever. Indeed they are some of our best ambassadors abroad.
One of our best selling points at present is our educated workforce and the level of expertise of our graduates. That is one of the strongest points you could make if you were facing any group of American businessmen at present. The more people we can send to the United States on this kind of exchange basis the better. On the other hand, it is important that they return to Ireland to give us the benefit of their expertise and the knowledge of technology they have learned in America, otherwise we could suffer, as it is called, a further brain drain. We could lose many good people who would have remained in Ireland if they had not been offered an opportunity to go to America.
 To sum up, in considering this Bill we should consider the amount of money we are putting into our post-graduates at home to encourage them to remain in Ireland to carry out research and further studies. We should encourage the people who will go out on these courses to come back and make a contribution to this country because, basically, they are the people on whom the future of this country will depend.
Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Mr. Calleary) Sean Calleary
Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Mr. Calleary): First of all, I thank all the Deputies who have contributed to this very important debate and particularly for their general welcome for the Bill. It can be said that all who spoke were pleased that the Bill would provide an opportunity for increased academic and other exchanges with the United States. Some of the points raised were technical and we will have an opportunity on Committee Stage to deal with them in depth. However, I will try to answer, as far as possible, many of the other points that were made.
Many Deputies felt this was a new position, rather it is an extension of a scheme that has been in operation for many years. Deputy Jim Higgins asked why it took so long since the fifties to expand upon this scheme and as I have said, the scheme has been in operation and is now being expanded upon.
Deputy Owens asked if the commission could seek funds from outside source. I will give her a more definitive answer later on. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent the commission from seeking funds from outside sources. I do not see any problem about their seeking funds from outside sources. A point was raised recently by Deputy Deenihan that perhaps more money should be made available to firms for research and keep some of our graduates at home. Deputy Owens asked also why the original board had four members nominated by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and three from the American side. I am afraid I do not know: that is history. The Minister will now nominate four persons and the  American representative will also nominate four. The old board, as mentioned by Deputy Michael Higgins, was not under the direct control of the Department.
The secretariat and the accommodation was supplied by the Department but the board made their own decisions. These decisions, as will be the case with the new decisions, had to be approved by the US Board of Foreign Scholarships and other agencies. Therefore, it was autonomous, not under the direct control of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Deputy Owens raised the question of the delay in the introduction of the Bill because, as both she and I said, the agreement was signed in October 1988. However, I am certain the House will appreciate that this legislation gives effect to a detailed international agreement which required lengthy negotitaion with another country. It was important, therefore, that the Bill should faithfully follow that very detailed agreement with the United States. For that reason the time factor for the drafting of the Bill was reasonable.
I should like to say to Deputy Mac Giolla who was very worried that the Department of Education were not involved, that we in the Department of Foreign Affairs do a very good job, a job which is as good as that which could be done by the Department of Education. Because this is an international agreement this Bill is being put forward by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The old board and the new board will work in conjunction with the Department. Deputy Owens inquired about something the late James Dillon said. I can assure the Deputy that the graduates of agricultural sciences have featured regularly in the exchanges under the programme and, particularly, in recent years, Teagasc have sent out a number of qualified people. Therefore, I am afraid the late Deputy Dillon was wrong on that point.
Deputy Higgins asked whether all the universities would be treated equally regarding the opportunity to accept visiting scholars and the granting of awards  under the proposed new programme. I can assure Deputy Higgins this is the case under the existing programme, as he rightly said, and it will continue under the new arrangement. Deputy Higgins, in a very interesting and informed speech, which was backed by his own personal experience, said he had to move around a lot. I am not sure what he meant by that but I will ask him afterwards. He seemed to look for a tremendous number of guarantees from me in relation to many aspects of the working of the commission. As both he and Deputy Owens said, the commission will be autonomous. He complimented the old board on the manner in which they had operated. I have no doubt that the new commission will perform their functions with the same expertise and fairness. If they are to be autonomous it would be invidious for me to suggest what they should do or what academic, scientific, cultural or artistic forms they should assist. I am quite certain the commission will not take a narrow view of who or what should be assisted.
Deputy Higgins queried the academic qualifications of the new commission, and rightly so, because this is very important. I would like to assure him that the present chairman of the board under the provisions of the Bill, will be the first chairman of the commission. That should in its own way guarantee the continuity which is important and guarantee that the academic qualifications of the old board will be continued in the new commission. Both he and Deputy O'Donoghue spoke about the possibility of getting secondary and primary people involved. He is probably aware that the spirit of Fulbright is third level. In relation to the point he made about artists, it could be accepted that a level of excellence and experience would be equivalent to academic qualifications. That should take care of the worries he had on that point.
Deputy Mac Giolla was very worried about funding and a number of other items. He was also worried, and rightly so — and I thank him for bringing it to  my notice — that the last copy of a report he had was for 1982. I can assure the Deputy that reports are lodged with the Minister for Foreign Affairs every year. I will make arrangements to have copies of the recent annual reports laid before the House and, indeed, copies of the financial reports which have been audited. I do not know why they were not laid before the House, but I can guarantee that that will be done. The Deputy was very critical of me for my lack of information as to the history of the previous board. I honestly felt that most Deputies knew about the previous board and their funding and that is why I did not go into detail on it. In relation to funding, the original board were set up with a fund of £500,000. The interest from that sum is approximately £50,000 and that is the amount of money that was expended plus, since 1984, $127,000 from the United States. Ireland has contributed to the secretarial expenses, the interest, accommodation, equipment, light, telephones and the various expenses incurred in the functioning of such a board.
As regards the question about section 16, that section is there because it is written into the agreement. I will quote from the agreement which, as I have said, we will deal with on Committee Stage. It states that as an organisation established for charitable purposes the commission will be exempt from income tax and capital gains tax in relation to income and-or gains applied for charitable purposes. Transfers and leases of land made for charitable purposes will be exempt from stamp duty. Inheritances applied for public or charitable purposes will be exempt from inheritance tax. The commission shall be entitled to import free of duty the necessary equipment for official use. As I have said, it is to faithfully follow what is in the agreement that section 16 is in the Bill. The financial reports will be laid before the House as well as the general reports.
I agree with Deputy Cullimore's remark. Both countries can learn from one another and indeed respect one another's cultures. The benefits that have  accrued to Ireland as a result of these exchanges have been widespread. This point was also made by Deputy Deenihan. He feared that people on these exchanges might not return. It is fair to say that quite a number have returned and have made a very valuable contribution to the culture of Ireland, to Irish industry and indeed to academic life in Ireland.
Deputy Mac Giolla raised the question as to why we have not agreements like this with other countries. We have many cultural agreements with other countries. However this is a very special agreement in that it is an agreement between the United States and 120 countries. It is not just an agreement between the United States and Ireland. All of us welcome the extra funding and the extra opportunities. To benefit we have to abide by certain conditions as set out in the agreement.
Deputy Jim Higgins said this scheme is a humble prototype. The Deputy wondered if it could be applied to the Department of Education. This is not just a humble prototype. It is probably one of the greatest schemes in the world and we happen to be part of it. The Deputy mentioned that education is being neglected in the Community. I have very clear recollections of Deputy Mary O'Rourke, Minister for Education, fighting Ireland's interest at many meetings in the Community.
Deputy O'Donoghue spoke about the anti-American bias. I do not think there is an anti-American bias. He also quoted Davis — Education, that you may be free. I agree with his sentiments — this point was also raised by Deputy Deenihan — that there is a possibility that many people may not come back to this country, but the experience has been that most of those who benefited from the exchange schemes have come back and, as I said earlier, have used their added experience and expertise to the benefit of Ireland.
There has been a very favourable reaction to the Bill from all the Deputies who spoke. As I have said, I will clear up  some of the other points when we come to Committee Stage.
Question put and agreed to.
Acting Chairman (Mrs. Barnes) Acting Chairman (Mrs. Barnes)
Acting Chairman (Mrs. Barnes): Has a date been set for Committee Stage?
Mr. Calleary Mr. Calleary
Mr. Calleary: Next Tuesday, subject to agreement between the Whips.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 23 April 1991.
Dáil Éireann 407 Educational Exchange (Ireland and the United States of America) Bill, 1991: Second Stage (Resumed).