Irish expats in UAE bring both nations closer, minister says

Abu Dhabi: Ten thousand Irish expatriates in the UAE who make up the largest Irish community in the Middle East bring both nations closer as they act as ambassadors of their country, according to a senior official.

Among them, Irish teachers play a major role in strengthening people-to-people relations, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Irish Minister of State for Higher Education, told Gulf News in an interview in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

“We have three thousand Irish teachers here … teaching Emirati children,” O’Connor, who is on an official visit to the UAE, said. Emirati children gets an experience of having an Irish teacher in the classroom. Their parents also come to know about the Irish teacher. “These children will be ambassadors for [Irish] industry and education. That will be a wonderful relationship to have,” she said.

Irish businesses and professionals have made a strong presence in many important sectors in the UAE, such as ICT (Information, Communications and Technology), engineering, construction, health care and many others.

About the bilateral relations, O’Connor said the number of Emiratis visiting Ireland has increased since the country lifted the visa requirement for UAE nationals with effect from January 31.

 We have 3,000 Irish teachers here … teaching Emirati children. These children will be ambassadors for [Irish] industry and education. That will be a wonderful relationship.”

 – Mary Mitchell O’Connor | Irish Minister of State for Higher Education 

According to Tourism Ireland, between 65,000 and 75,000 travellers from the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council states) visited Ireland in 2016.

There were strong indications of increased visitors from the GCC in 2017 with approximately 65 per cent of total GCC visitors originating from the UAE.

“We welcome Emiratis to our country as tourists and students,” the minister said.

She said 540 Emirati students graduated from various Irish educational institutions since 2006. Ireland offers more than 200 scholarships in various disciplines for Emirati students.

A recently introduced ‘stay-back programme’ will attract more foreign students to Ireland as it will help them get work experience after completing studies. Undergraduate students studying for three years get one-year work permit and master’s students of two years get two-year work permit. They will get opportunities to work with multinational companies or Irish companies and gain work experience, O’Connor said.

As part of her official interactions, the minister had meetings with Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance; Dr Abdullah Mohammad Bel Haif Al Nuaimi, Minister of Infrastructure Development and Chairman of the Federal Authority for Land and Maritime Transport; and Dr Ahmad Abdullah Humaid Bel Houl Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills.

During her visit to Khalifa University Abu Dhabi, she interacted with Emirati students and faculty members.

The minister attended a reception on Wednesday evening in Abu Dhabi, hosted by Paul Kavanagh, the Ambassador of Ireland to the UAE, on the occasion of the National Day of Ireland (St Patrick’s Day). Shaikh Nahyan also attended the event.

In figures

10,000 Irish expats in UAE
3,000 Irish teachers in UAE
65,000 to 75,000 GCC visitors to Ireland in 2016
65% of GCC visitors are from UAE
540 Emiratis graduated from Ireland since 2006


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