Irish Ambassador to India Brendan Ward told The New Indian Express in an interview that people-to-people links raise the familiarity of each country with the other and drive trade in goods, services, and investment. Excerpts:
India and Ireland relations are on the rise with booming trade ties and also people-to-people connections. How can they take their ties forward, especially in the post-pandemic era?
Ireland greatly values the growing Indian community in our country, which now numbers over 40,000. I am proud that the Irish government ensured Indian students in Ireland received good support during the pandemic, and Irish visitors to India were helped very well by the Indian government too. The trust and respect this engenders will help take our bilateral ties forward. We hope more Indian students will come to Ireland and that tourism links between the two countries continue to recover.
Do you think the Virtual Showcase being held for the students will help more Indians choose Ireland as their preferred destination for higher studies?
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, students and families are continuing to plan for the future and invest in their education. The Virtual Showcase, all about Ireland, allows students and parents to engage in a number of ways. There are chat rooms, options for video calls with admissions and academics staff and a virtual seminar room. One of the seminar sessions is a live chat with Indian students currently studying in Ireland.
What was the idea behind the Virtual Showcase for students and what are its main attractions?
This Virtual Showcase, which takes place on February 27, is one the biggest ‘Education in Ireland’ events of the year. It is essentially an education fair bringing together 20 of Ireland’s top higher education institutions with prospective students from all across India and Sri Lanka. To date, over 6,000 students have registered for the event.
Essentially this event presents to Indian and Sri Lankan students Ireland’s undergraduate and postgraduate offering for the September 2021 and January 2022 intakes. Students can discuss their options with Irish admissions staff and academics either in chat rooms or via video call and can learn about entry requirements, course content, scholarships and post-study work opportunities. Officials from the Irish government’s Visa Office in New Delhi will also be present to provide latest advice and clarifications with regard to the visa application policy.
With the pandemic enveloping the world, many students and parents are sceptical about sending their children to study, especially in Europe. How has the government of Ireland taken precautions?
When Covid-19 began to spread throughout Europe almost a year ago now, a significant number of international students were studying in Ireland at the time. The Irish government quickly confirmed that healthcare support would be provided at no cost to students of any nationality who were directly affected by Covid-19. On the academic side, all lecturers and tutorials were delivered online for students.
The online delivery continued into the September 2020 intake, with the exception of some practical and laboratory sessions. Over 3,000 students from India began programmes during this time. Significant support was put in place for them. The current academic year has not been an easy one, but international students have shown great spirit, flexibility and resilience. The two-year stay-back option for graduates at Masters level has very much remained in place to allow international graduates to seek employment opportunities in Ireland, despite the challenges of the pandemic.
The pandemic has also shown the need for diverse supply chains and with many IT giants choosing to set up business in Ireland. Do you think this will boost the influx of professionals as well as students?
I believe it will…The increasing diversity and career options that multinational and Irish IT companies offer to graduating students is a strong draw for students to choose Ireland. Irish companies also engage well with their counterparts in India due to a shared language and strong IT culture, and Indians with experience in Ireland are invaluable to this growing market. Indians with experience in Ireland also do very well across the EU and the US, due to the training and cultural exposure they gain in Ireland.Given the fall in the number of tourists due to the pandemic, is Ireland planning any concession for Indian tourists? Ireland will continue to provide concession to Indian tourists. The British Irish visa scheme has really been a good driver for increasing the Indian footfall and we will soon reintroduce it…We are confident that Ireland will continue to be on the bucket list of Indian travellers once the borders open.