George Mitchell Scholarship Fund Bill, 1998: Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Táim búioch as ucht an deis seo a bheith agam an Bill seo a chur ós chomhair an Tí.

It gives me great pleasure to bring before the House an historic Bill that seeks to honour the fine work of a friend of Ireland. The George Mitchell Scholarship Fund Bill acknowledges the efforts of a man who has contributed much to the cause of peace on this island. Simultaneously, it brings into existence a scholarship fund which will enrich the lives of young people for generations to come and strengthen the close bonds between Ireland and the United States of America.

I am sure we have all heard of the Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. In almost a century of existence, it has allowed some of the world's finest minds to live the Oxford experience and to circulate in an educational ambit of which they might otherwise have been ignorant. It has consistently proved itself of immense benefit to the individual scholar, his or her Oxford college and to society as a whole. Its prestige is unrivalled. Former recipients include world leaders and some of the most eminent writers and thinkers of our time.

I am proud to bring before the House a Bill to establish our version of the Rhodes Scholarship — the George J. Mitchell Scholarship. Once in operation, this programme will allow young American scholars to experience the Irish higher education system and to contribute their energies and talents to it. The individual scholar will benefit, the Irish higher education system will benefit and the ties between Ireland and the United States will be further strengthened. All of these benefits will accrue, while establishing a permanent reminder of the good works of Senator Mitchell on our behalf.

George Mitchell has had a celebrated career, not only as a senator and lawyer, but as a peacemaker. His was the guiding hand behind the Good Friday Agreement. His principles set the tone for that Agreement and the peace process in Northern Ireland bears the stamp of his integrity. Through his efforts, and those of General de Chastelain and Prime Minister Harri Holkeri, we have seen unprecedented change in the way our two traditions regard each other and in the way they regard themselves. We have seen Unionist and Nationalist come together at the table of Government. We have seen the leader of unionism standing side by side with the Taoiseach on the steps of Government Buildings. In addition, Prime Minister Tony Blair became the first British Prime Minister to address the Oireachtas. These were historic moments, images without precedent in the course of Irish history.

The people of Ireland have endorsed the Good Friday Agreement as the only legitimate charter to guide and direct our efforts now and for the future as we seek to build a new agreed Ireland, North and South. The voice of the people, spoken by the living representatives of the two great traditions of this island, has redefined Ireland. Their collective verdict transcends not just the Anglolrish Agreement but the whole 1920-21 settlement.

The endorsement of the people allows us all to approach the new millennium with hope and optimism that we have bridged the divisions of the past and that we can now begin the work of building true and lasting peace and prosperity together on this island. Bertrand Russell said the only thing that would redeem mankind was co-operation. It is precisely that realisation, together with the resilience and vision of Senator Mitchell, that has brought us to where we are today. The idea that Nationalists and Unionists could sit together in the same chamber as part of a putative power-sharing arrangement, would have seemed farfetched only a few short years ago. Yet, there is an assembly in Northern Ireland, there has been an agreement and there is a First and Deputy First Minister. Co-operation is on the agenda and redemption is within reach.

It required people of vision to advance the North from 30 years of stalemate to a position of hope. Visionaries on both sides of the politicocultural divide have seen the opportunity for progress and, guided by Senator Mitchell's tenacity, have taken us to the cusp of a new era. Uniquely, he has helped us to help ourselves and the people of Ireland, North and South, have every reason to be grateful to him.

It is appropriate that we honour the good works of Senator Mitchell with the establishment of this scholarship in his name. In the same way that he has helped us to seek out the best in ourselves, this scholarship will reward the best, mostrounded young people of their generations, cementing the bonds between Ireland and the United States. It will also be seen as a declaration — a statement that we have learned from the errors of the past and that we are prepared to embark on a new era of co-operation, internationally and at home. I commend this Bill to the House in the name of tolerance, progress and reconciliation.

I welcome the Minister to the House and commend him on his short speech. In the interests of brevity I wish to share my time with Senator Costello.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

This Bill will be greeted with enthusiasm on all sides. It was born of happy and hopeful circumstances and is one of the appropriate ways to honour the contribution of Senator George Mitchell. He has been a great benefactor to the Irish people, North and South. He has taught us a great deal, not least about the arts of conciliation, compromise and negotiation and the great quality of patience. He has been prepared to listen and to let all sides make their case to prove that even in the most unhopeful circumstances, there can be, and often is, common ground.

It is good to know these scholarships will be another lasting legacy to Senator Mitchell as a person and a statesman. The Minister mentioned the Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships. I might have some reservations about Cecil Rhodes, particularly after the recent television series. However, in the case of Senator Fulbright, scholarships are solid and lasting legacies to the memory of these people.

As someone with personal experience of scholarship exchanges, I know how lasting can be the value of such exchanges. I had occasion to work in Paris and Florida on exchanges. It is not just the contribution that one makes coming from one's own country but the friendships, insights and values that one brings back which make a lasting contribution. They are important in cementing understanding and friendships which last a long time.

State funding for the scholarship is generous but not overly so. However, the scheme would not be possible without this funding which will continue. It is envisaged that private funding for these scholarships will be welcome and significant. There will be no shortage of such funding as the scheme has gripped the imagination of many corporate bodies and will be on a sound financial basis from the outset. I hope corporate Ireland will be as generous as it appears some of the major US groups will be.

The Minister is aware that private and corporate funding, particularly for third level education, is becoming a crucial element in the overall picture. I pay tribute to some of the Irish benefactors of recent years. These people may come in for criticism in other walks of life, some — perhaps much — of which, is legitimate. However, they have led by example in ploughing back their money into the development of higher education.

Dr. A. J. F. O'Reilly is an example of such a person. I do not approve of much of what happens in some of his newspapers or his policies in the last election. However, he has been a major benefactor to third level education. The O'Reilly Institute at Trinity College and the O'Reilly Hall in UCD, at which the Minister was a recent guest, are significant contributions to the work of universities and there are many other areas which benefit from Dr. O'Reilly's funding.

Michael Smurfit has made an endowment to the graduate business school in UCD and another major endowment at UCC. I am sure other endowments will follow from him. Lochlann Quinn recently donated £3 million for the development of the commerce undergraduate school at UCD. Senator Edward Haughey has and continues to make a significant contribution to the development of veterinary sciences at UCD. I am skimming the surface as all our universities have been recipients of large donations from Irish people. It has not only been a case of receiving funding from abroad, there have been significant contributions from Irish leaders of industry. Contributions of this sort would have been unheard of ten or 15 years ago as they were not part of our culture. Happily they now are.

I become impatient at some of the carping reactions to contributions of this sort. I spent some time trying to raise such funds at UCD. It was often dispiriting to put forward carefully worked out proposals and go out with a begging bowl seeking large contributions only to see the motives of those contributing frequently sniped at and misrepresented. In every case I can think of, the motives of those who gave funds were up front, clear and without any hint of hidden agendas. It is good that we have reached a stage when the Irish corporate sector and wealthy Irish individuals are thinking more of how they can put back into society some of what they have derived from it, particularly with regard to third level institutions.

In my experience much of the effort in the fund raising operations of Irish third level institutions overseas is wasteful and duplicated. I speak only of third level institutions as that is the area I know best. The same people are targeted over and over again. The overall interests of Irish third level education might benefit from a greater sharing of resources and an approach similar to that of the Ireland Fund. It should not be too difficult for those in Irish third level — as a small number of institutions are involved — to decide their main targets and objectives and have one central headquarters in the United States which could have a list of people to target who might be in a position to contribute rather than all of them targeting the same people. This can create a sense of irritation when the same people are asked over and over again.

I discussed this idea with the Ireland Fund some years ago and it made small progress but did not get any further. It could be revisited. People may say it is better to have competing groups. However the size of the Irish diaspora in the United States is so huge that the number of Irish people now coming into positions of prominence is enormous and greater than at any time in history. Therefore the resources needed to reach these people are large. If third level institutions pooled their resources, they might be able to extend the range of their potential targets and the overall result might be better. Many people have no loyalty to an individual institution. They want to invest in the progress of this country and they are more likely to be impressed if there is a more co-operative approach. I want to mark the fact that much of the funding for these scholarships will come from the private sector. I welcome that very much.

I commend the Minister on the speed with which he brought the Bill to the House. The Bill is brief and to the point. It covers all that is necessary. I look forward to this scheme being a great and lasting success.

I thank Senator Manning for sharing his time with me. I welcome the Minister to the House. I welcome the Government providing funds for the George Mitchell scholarship and I welcome the amendments. They are appropriate. They extend the remit of the Bill, not just into the university sector but to other appropriate third level institutions.

As far as I am aware, no other American has made a bigger contribution to Ireland in terms of hands-on application over a considerable time. It is very important and welcome that we honour and recognise that contribution to peace on this island. Senator Mitchell's qualities contributed so much to the Good Friday Agreement and to bringing about that which seemed to us to be irreconcilable for so many centuries. That required the inordinately finely honed skills of Senator Mitchell. His negotiating skills, determination and vision all contributed. He was the American in Belfast who, with the other American in Washington, made a tremendous contribution.

A few years ago who would have thought the United States could have made such a contribution to peace on this island? It was unthinkable. Who would have thought the Prime Minister of Great Britain could have made such a contribution? We must also acknowledge the contribution of the Taoiseach.

It helps to take the cynicism out of politics. We are so used to hearing that all politicians are self-seekers and have nothing on their minds other than satisfying their own personal ambitions and needs that it is great to see somebody can make such a lasting and self-effacing contribution to a very important solution to a conflict. It reminds one of Plato's theory that politics is the high point of wisdom and the pinnacle of the achievement of citizenship and that by reaching a high level of wisdom one should be able to enter politics and be in a position of leadership. We must seek this type of target to get away from the debasement of the description and perception of politics and the portrayal of politicians in the media. Senator Mitchell has substantially contributed to putting politics on the pinnacle in terms of his vision and ability to deliver the goods in a difficult situation.

It is important that we recognise this educational foundation, fund and scholarship as the vision that brings about a resolution of this nature and that it is the highest point of education. As Senator Manning stated, it is also important that we involve the private sector as much as possible so that the State is not always the only body responsible for putting funds into education. I commend the Minister for being good at doing that — establishing a scientific fund — and inviting the private sector to contribute. It would be welcome if we could get a social guarantee from the business community — this happens in many other countries — where a small percentage, even a fraction of 1 per cent, of annual profits is directed into worthwhile community projects or education. Education is the most desirable of all community activities into which it could be directed.

I am delighted we are marking the legacy of Senator Mitchell in this fashion. It is the right way forward. Perhaps in the fullness of time we might establish a George Mitchell professorship on this island to deal with conflict resolution and reconciliation. It could be a beacon for the world.

I wish to share my time with Senator Kett.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I, too, welcome the Minister to the House and congratulate him for bringing this fine Bill before the House to establish the George Mitchell scholarship fund, an acknowledgement and recognition of the work of this fine Senator who came here in difficult times. His qualities of patience and determination and his sense of humour in understanding the Irishness of how we work came into play to bring the two traditions together in the peace process and form the Good Friday Agreement. This Bill is an acknowledgement of his achievements. It is great we are acknowledging the work of this fine man.

This is about educating post-graduates. I welcome the concept of bonding the two countries closer with post-graduate research work. This will be acknowledged and popular in America where our education is system is widely acknowledged. I was delighted to read the candidates will come from selected universities. That is important. It is also important that the research will be of merit to them and to this country. Very often post-graduate work does not contribute much. I would hate to think we would not get good value for our money.

This is a worthwhile project and I commend the Government for acknowledging George Mitchell's contribution so quickly. I endorse the Minister's speech he said it all. I commend the Bill. It is great that we are here to honour such a great man.

This is a good Bill which will be of enormous value to graduates from abroad. It will give them an opportunity to broaden their horizons and get a greater understanding of other societies. The implementation and operation of the fund should be examined. I ask the Minister to ensure it is not availed of by only a privileged few. I am sure the criteria and parameters for qualification for the scholarship have been set down.

The Bill acknowledges the tremendous work of George Mitchell in the peace process. This is a fitting tribute to him and I congratulate the initiator of the Bill. George Mitchell has had an outstanding career as a lawyer, Senator and peacemaker. He was the guiding light of the Good Friday Agreement as the Mitchell Principles set the tone for it. He brought about an accommodation of opinion and belief which, without his abilities, would not have been possible. We must be forever grateful for that. We are in a tentative position as we speak. However, I hope we can all find our way through the impasse and that the good work done by George Mitchell will not go to waste.

George Mitchell brought a great range of talent to the peace process. He showed kindness and tolerance in all circumstances. He gave of his time to everyone equally and treated everyone with equal tolerance, even when points of view, which conflicted with his own, were outrageous in the extreme. Those virtues might be seen as outdated today. However, he was be able to maintain a dialogue even at the worst of times when people were poles apart. It took a man of a special calibre and tolerance to maintain his objectives without losing sight of them — peace and reconciliation in the final analysis.

It is appropriate that his good work is honoured today with the establishment of this scholarship in his name. I hope that, among the great people benefiting from the scholarship, there may be another George Mitchell who will bring to bear the same virtues and abilities he has shown, to our benefit.

I propose to share my time with Senator Henry.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the Minister, the speed with which he introduced this Bill and with which he spoke today. I have a major problem with the Bill which should not stop me from welcoming it in general terms and paying a sincere tribute to George Mitchell. The best praise one can offer is that at the end of the process, he emerged in the eyes of everyone involved as an impartial broker who added immeasurably to the results achieved.

However, that is not the way it started, it started completely differently. At the beginning, George Mitchell was viewed with suspicion by Unionists as a kind of an American trojan horse with Irish republicans inside. Some Unionists saw him as the manifestation of strong arm tactics by the United States Government, which many Americans saw as taking sides in the Northern Ireland question. Having started with such perceptions against him from one side of the divide, it was a remarkable achievement, and one we cannot help but praise, that he was able to destroy those perceptions and gain the confidence of everyone in the process. I would love to know how he achieved this — there are lessons to be learnt by all of us. He achieved a great deal given the point from which he started.

The establishment of a scholarship fund in honour of George Mitchell is a great idea. However, the Minister drew a comparison with the famous Rhodes scholarships, to which Senator Manning also referred. I would not push that analogy too far. In Scramble for Africa, Thomas Pakenham told a story about Rhodes. He was a bit of a rogue and I am not sure whether George Mitchell would be pleased to be likened to him.

Whatever about the man, the scheme is a good one.

There is no doubt about that. The idea is an imaginative one and it will go on forever.

President Clinton was a Rhodes scholar.

I did not say anything about that — Rhodes was a rogue. I will now explain the problem I have with the Bill in its present form. I hope I will be able to convince the Minister to think this through.

Some Government amendments have been put down as a result of the debate in the Dáil last week. The Bill as originally drafted envisaged that the scholarship recipients would pursue research only in the universities named in the 1992 Act — universities in the Republic. In the other House, the Minister generously accepted the argument that this should be extended to all institutes of higher education, not just universities. I compliment him on his readiness to amend the Bill in response to representations. I have no problem extending the remit of the Bill in that way. I congratulate the Minister for listening to and accepting those suggestions.

However, I am shocked at what we are left with. Under the Bill, even as amended, scholarships will be restricted to educational institutions "in the State", a phrase used twice. American students will be able to pursue their studies in any higher education institution provided it is in the Republic. This is astounding — a scholarship fund which honours the work of George Mitchell with a specifically partitionist remit. A student who wishes to pursue research into conflict resolution in a Northern Ireland institution will be disqualifed by the Bill we are about to pass from getting a scholarship. Even if they want to undertake part of their study in the North, they will not be funded. I do not understand how this can be envisaged. There must be a way around it.

There is no legal reason the scholarships should not also be tenable in a Northern Irish institution. There is no territorial invasion involved. Every university in the world has scholarships funded from abroad, as Senator Manning said. No one raises an eyebrow when universities accept scholarships from abroad. We should not use legal advice as an excuse for not doing this. We can and must do it. I am not sure how the Minister will find a way around this. It would be against the meaning of George Mitchell's work to make education partitionist in this way. Otherwise, we are undermining the entire basis of George Mitchell's work for Ireland. He succeeded in bridging the two traditions. Should we honour him by creating scholarships which deepen that divide? Of course not.

We should also look at this from a practical point of view. It is likely that many American students interested in researching conflict resolution in Ireland may want to carry out their research in Northern Ireland. That after all is where the main trouble has been for the past 80 years. Many people attracted to the subject would think of going to Northern Ireland first — it would not be an unusual choice. That being so, how will the reputation of these scholarships fair when candidates discover that built into this scheme is a geographic bias which reflects exactly the divisions of our island and which the peace process is designed to address?

My mother came from County Armagh, my father came from County Down and my cousins are all in the North and do not recognise a boundary in so many different ways. I have huge problems with those furthest from the Border and who seem to think that Border exists. I am not suggesting the Minister has a partitionist attitude but a partitionist attitude is almost ingrained in people in the South. We must work hard to ensure that does not happen. It would be simple to solve this problem.

With such a restriction, it will be very difficult for the scholarships to achieve the reputation and the standing I hope for them and which they clearly deserve. The achievement of George Mitchell demands of us that we think again on this point. It is not as if it would be hard to fix, and I would rely on the Minister's advice. We would have to replace only the now long list of institutions to read "an institution of high education in Ireland" and in the Long Title, to replace the words "in the State" with the words "in Ireland". Surely we could take out the words "in the State" and replace them with "in Ireland" or just take out the words "in the State" and not limit it to that this afternoon.

How can we tell students that if they are coming to Ireland to study, they should not go across the Border because their funding will be stopped? We are building into legislation a partitionist attitude which is against everything for which Senator Mitchell stood. With one stroke of the pen, we could remove this absurdity and put in place a system of scholarships which reflect fully the greatness of Senator Mitchell's contribution.

I urge the Minister to take that step which I believe he can take. I do not believe there is a simple solution with which we could come up by putting heads together for a few minutes. I worry when the Minister looks at me with concern because I know he is a man who loves a challenge and I am sure he will grab this one in the next ten or 15 minutes.

I welcome the Bill and agree with the great praise paid to Senator Mitchell who was such an important catalyst in the peace process. I would also like to mention Trina Vargo, the woman whose idea this scholarship fund was and whose energy, enthusiasm and, as some Senators will know, use of the e-mail spurred us into doing a little work towards this scheme. From the time she began to take an interest in Ireland, she could see the advantages of getting more people in America to take a deeper interest in Ireland, and this she felt was the best way to progress this. I compliment her on the work she did not only when she was in Senator Kennedy's office but, subsequently, working on the fund.

While the fund is for American students, it is really a method for making friends for Ireland because that is what will happen. The younger the age we can make these friends, the better. Friends who have reached this stage intellectually and educationally in the United States are bound to be extremely influential at a certain stage.

Research is extremely important in education and the more we co-operate in this regard with America, Great Britain or on the two parts of this island, the better. I share Senator Quinn's concern. I thought the scholarships could be taken up in the universities in Northern Ireland but apparently that is not so.

It is a pity this island does not try to co-operate more, outside this scheme, as regards research but blocks are put in the way. While I speak for the medical and scientific areas only, if people in Northern Ireland raise funds locally, they are often given more government aid if they co-operate with another British university rather than with one south of the Border. These simple solutions to cross-Border concerns should be addressed rather than getting into the complications about which we sometimes hear blocking the way to the peace process.

As president of the Irish Association, I have been involved in cross-Border initiatives funded by the peace and reconciliation fund with money from the European Union involving co-operation and discussions between second level schools from both traditions on both sides of the Border. We have got groups together to talk and try to understand each other's aspirations and fears, which is extraordinarily worthwhile. This is a process with which we must go on. So often when we think bridges have been crossed, we find large gaps and we must go back over the process again. Anything which encourages co-operation among people from educational institutions in this State and elsewhere and among cross-Border institutions, must be encouraged.

It would be good if the Minister could accept Senator Quinn's amendment. The idea of excluding Northern universities from this scheme seems unusual. Looking at the Minister's puzzled face, he will probably tell us there is some reason he cannot do so. I congratulate the Minister on the speed with which he brought this Bill forward and I know Trina Vargo is delighted with it.

Failtím roimh an Bille seo agus fáiltím freisin roimh an scoláireacht atá in omós d'fhear a dhein cion fir ar son na hÉireann agus ar son gach éinne ar an oileán seo. Im thuairimse do chruthaigh George Mitchell arís an dlúth-bhaint agus an cáirdeas a bhí idir na Stáit Aontaithe agus an tír seo. Is deá-scéala é i slí agus is deá-chomhartha é freisin gur cuimhneachán oideachais seachas leacht chuimhneacháin atá i gceist. Molaim an tAire mar gheall ar sin.

The abiding image I have of George Mitchell is one of a man of innate decency — a wily but benevolent negotiator who used his skills for the betterment of a country not his own. That is a wonderful demonstration of the great links which exit between the United States and Ireland. We all saw him as a man of dignity and of determination. All these qualities made an important contribution to the solution which emerged from the negotiations.

I am particularly pleased a monument of stone was not suggested to commemorate and celebrate what George Mitchell did for Ireland because an education type project has an organic dimension which will grow and develop with time. When the beneficiaries of the scholarships embark on their chosen careers, I have no doubt they will continue, in many ways, to talk of George Mitchell and to emulate his skills and goodness. There is not a person on this island who could genuinely say that without George Mitchell we would have been as successful in bringing about the Good Friday Agreement. Another person may not have had the patience which Senator Mitchell demonstrated.

It is very easy at this stage to forget the difficult times. As we watched television bulletins and got the pessimistic assessments of where the negotiations stood, we all felt that they could end in a cul-de-sac. At all times, the confident smile and reassuring stature of George Mitchell tended to come to the fore and give a new impetus to those negotiations and discussions. It is to be hoped that recent hiccups will be short term and that perhaps in the coming days we will see the fruition of what George Mitchell attempted to achieve. Many said he was attempting the impossible because at times it seemed so against the background of decades of difficulties and troubles and centuries of history.

George Mitchell was not in his tender years when he came to Ireland. He already had a brilliant political and legal career behind him. He must have realised he was entering the lion's den and that it was not going to be an easy task. It would have been easier for him to have refused the request of the President of the United States, to have lived a more comfortable and easier existence and not to have come to Ireland and tempted fate with the challenges awaiting him here. This was an indication of the greatness of the man because he had little to achieve personally. He obviously had no political focus when he first came here. It was evident from the offers made to him subsequently in his own political circles in the United States and which he declined that he had no outstanding political ambitions. Therefore, one must assume he came here with the purest of motives — to help in a very difficult situation. He had a negotiating background and had been successful in other arenas. In those, the difficulties were not always as clear or as long standing as those in Ireland. A man who could gain the credit and admiration of all traditions on this island as he did had to be an especially good negotiator.

Listening to his farewell speech, no one could be in any doubt that he had developed a certain affection for the country. He has returned to Ireland on a number of occasions since and it can be sensed at all times that, in terms of Ireland's welfare, he has a desire that it should succeed and that the historical obstacles which prevented further progress should be removed. The introduction of a Bill to create a scholarship to honour, commemorate and celebrate George Mitchell is what he would have desired.

It also sends another potent message by helping to underline the vibrancy of education in Ireland. I have always felt proud when travelling abroad when people say we have one of the best education systems in the world and that anyone who comes through Irish education and travels abroad is able to hold their own with the best in any walk of life or career. Therefore, to suggest a memorial rooted and integrated in that status of Ireland is good for Ireland itself.

We all rejoiced at, and were relieved by, the success of the Good Friday Agreement and are optimistic for the future. That percolated not only through the communities on the island but also to the millions of people of Irish extraction abroad. We were not exercising or performing within the small, restricted arena of the island but were being watched carefully and closely, not only by the millions of Irish extraction but also by the many friends of Ireland throughout the world who wished us well in this regard. I hope no one prevents that movement forward. Each person who voted in the referenda and all who lent their support to the Good Friday Agreement does not want to return to what existed prior to George Mitchell's involvement. The greatest memorial we could develop and erect to him would be to bring the Agreement to fruition. The House should send out that message at every opportunity because we owe it not only to those who suffered in the past and who were affected by the tragedies but also to future generations.

I welcome the Bill, especially the scholarship project, because there could be no better memorial to celebrate and commemorate George Mitchell.

The Bill is an appropriate commemoration of the contribution made by George Mitchell, the extraordinary dexterity he showed throughout negotiations about which people can only have nightmares, how he brought them to a conclusion and the manner in which he wound up the debate. Great tributes have been paid in this debate to him and to his skill. His last contribution to the final plenary gathering under his chairmanship during which he remembered without notes every single contributor, even predecessors of people in office at the time, such as Foreign Ministers, Ministers for Justice and junior Ministers, showed an extraordinary completeness and inclusiveness. Anyone would feel privileged that a scholarship has been established in their honour and Senator Mitchell's reaction when it was announced by both Presidents during the year bore witness to that.

This is a hugely important step forward. The importance of study as a tool to understanding, greater progress and for moving forward ideas is something of which we have lost sight. Boston College recently organised for members of the Assembly in Northern Ireland to attend a series of seminars about which the Minister is aware and in which he played a role. I spoke to people responsible for giving the seminars and they felt they had learned a great deal. The seminars were organised in such a way that they did not know who was on what side of the political divide. They dealt with them as a group trying to address and focus on something. What is attractive about the scholarship is that an outsider, who will by their nature be objective, will focus on the multi-faceted jewel of Irish culture and try to come to terms with it. They will undoubtedly miss some aspects but they will develop others and create a new awareness for us.

Those of us who have seen this happen before have learned from it. One of my greatest pleasures since entering the House 12 years ago was meeting the IPA interns attached to our offices, asking them their views on Ireland when they arrive — what they felt before they arrived, what were their first impressions — asking them what they were after six months here and seeing the growth and development of thought, understanding and ideas. When I saw this legislation, I thought it was a good way of moving matters further forward.

It comes down to the value of words. We talk about people wanting a united Ireland, what is a united Ireland? The number of people in Northern Ireland who have answered that question — even in their own minds — is miniscule. It does not enter their vocabulary. They are not sure what it is they are looking for or are opposed to when discussing a united Ireland. Is it a unity of minds, a political unity, a cultural unity or some sort of apartheid? Studies of this nature could bring about attractive methods that could be useful in the North. The idea is to bring to bear outside perspectives which will look at new models and put forward proposals for new protocols, new apparatus and new structures of Government to create debate on our approach to the problems in the North. We as politicians, more than anyone else, must know that at the end of each day all argument, strife and war concludes through discussion on a particular topic which requires concentrated thought and people who will assimilate information, make judgments and move forward.

What we have not been doing, and could do, is taking a structured approach to problem solving. We should define the problem — something we, as politicians, are not good at because very often the so-called problem is dumped in our laps — understand it and put together all available and related information which could have a bearing on the matter. We could then look at the alpha and omega of the problem, taking into account the possible alternatives, options, routes, directions or ways of moving it forward. Finally, we must exercise judgment in deciding the best or most appropriate solution to reaching the determined objective. That kind of intellectual approach to problem solving, particularly political problem solving, does not happen because no group is required to do so. Politicians are forced by the day-to-day exigencies of political life to find quick solutions and to move things forward.

The idea of a considered, studied approach to issues by people who avail of the funds and scholarships available under this Bill is hugely attractive. There is a sense of excitement among us all at the idea of taking fresh minds, objective and detached people to study Irish life and report on it. We will find they will look through a different pair of spectacles or take a different perspective. We have turned the telescope on each other; we are looking through a different lens. This is hugely important.

I would like the Minister to comment on my next point — I presume it arises under article 2. While I would hate to see the Bill's intention being narrowed in any way, it would be useful if what might be the most appropriate issues of study are dealt with by way of schedule. I do not want to see the introduction of another American scholarship to work out the 24 million interpretations of what Joyce meant in Ulysses or some aspects of Anglo-Irish literature.

Senator Norris is almost out his office door trying to get here.

It will be very useful to have fresh views and new approaches to cultural and political issues and matters relating to Ireland today. I welcome the legislation and compliment the Government and Minister on finding this attractive and creative way of recognising the contribution made by George Mitchell to this country over the past number of years.

I will be brief. I would hate to think this scholarship would be set at such a high intellectual level that it would not inform American citizens and people visiting this country of the multi-faceted nature of Irish society. I want to endorse that point which was well made by Senator O'Toole. Perhaps the Minister might comment on it.

My first reaction to the points made about replacing the word "State" with "Ireland" is that we are a sovereign State and have initiated this wonderful innovative legislation. We cannot legislate for Northern Ireland or extend this legislation to it. This is a constitutional issue, but I am sure the Minister can deal with it.

I was particularly interested in the reference by the Minister to Rhodes scholars. Some of my colleagues who contributed earlier referred to the fact that President Clinton is a Rhodes scholar. Another famous gentleman, Kris Kristofferson, who shares one of President Clinton's non-political interests, country music, is also a Rhodes scholar. He is now recognised as one of the finest songwriters in the American folk genre. His songs have been rerecorded right across the musical spectrum. If those two illustrious gentlemen, President Clinton who, coming from Arkansas, is an avowed country music fan and Kris Kristofferson, who is a country music writer, got together it might open up a whole range of possibilities. Perhaps the Minister could include a cultural input in the Bill by way of schedule or it could be done by the committee set up to oversee the scholarship.

I was anxious to contribute to this debate because I felt it was important that as many Members as possible should be on record acknowledging the outstanding contributions made not only by Senator Mitchell, to whom this Bill relates, but by the entire American political establishment to the peace process. It is easy for us to have a cosy, self-satisfied, smug attitude about American involvement in the peace process. The fact is that until President Clinton assumed power no previous American President had taken such a hands-on, proactive involvement in Irish affairs — not even the much vaunted John Fitzgerald Kennedy — simply because of what was called the "special relationship" between the American State Department and the British Foreign Office and American-British history which started, not in 1776 but as recently as 1939 and the World War II experience. That special relationship, while it is maintained and I have no wish to disparage it, has also been moved side of stage to allow the very real aspirations of the people of this island to be heard in the office of the most powerful political personage in the world. From that point of view, we should acknowledge the wider American contribution and the continuing involvement by President Clinton, the American political establishment, not only at White House level but in both Houses of Congress, and the fine Irish-American Congressmen and Senators who have continued to put the Irish agenda to the forefront of American politics. In some cases no political advantage was gained but in others advantages were gained. Contributions have also been made by Ben Gilman — an American who has a strong interest in Middle Eastern affairs — not only because of his position as chairman of the Foreign Relations Commission but because a number of his staff are Irish and because of Congressmen, like Peter King and others, who have kept the Irish agenda to the fore. This debate involves more than George Mitchell, a fine and wonderful man, it involves an acknowledgement of the continuing American involvement in Irish affairs. Long may that involvement continue because America has been an influence for good.

I am a former emigrant and I have strong links with Irish groups in America. The members of those groups see themselves as being American first but Irish at heart. They are proud that their President and members of the US Congress are proactively involved in Irish affairs and they have worked for centuries to keep the Irish agenda at the forefront of American political life.

The George Mitchell Scholarship Fund will have tremendous advantages. I understand that up to 24 students may come to Ireland to study Irish affairs at any one time under the scheme. I foresee a long-term political advantage — I say this in the party sense — for Ireland in this because it has already been indicated that once President Clinton is no longer centre stage there may be no guarantee that Irish interests will have the same influence on Capitol Hill which they enjoyed in the past six years, despite the fact that Vice-President Gore, heir apparent to the Democratic Party's presidential nomination who may eventually serve in the White House as President, has a strong interest in Irish affairs due to his upbringing in Tennessee.

We are setting in train something with much wider implications than mere intellectual or academic advantages; we are initiating a process which will bring people involved in American academia to this country. When these people return home — having completed their research and been awarded with degrees — to enter the wider world and earn a living, they will have a strong sense of place. They will gain this in much the same way President Clinton gained his early political education at college in Oxford. Mr. Clinton has repeatedly stated that he became involved in anti-Vietnam demonstrations in London during his stay in Britain in the late 1960s. That action was held against him by his political opponents when he first campaigned for the Presidency.

I would like to believe that the Minister's initiative will create long-term benefits for Ireland in the higher echelons of political, business and social life in America. While we may bemoan the loss of a good friend in President Clinton and hope that his successor will have a similar impact on Irish affairs, I believe this initiative will make an important contribution to ensuring that Irish affairs remain at the forefront of American establishment thinking across the various areas to which I referred.

The Minister is to be complimented for introducing the legislation. I have not dwelt to a great extent on the merits of George Mitchell because they have already been commented upon more than adequately by other Members. However, I must point out that Mo Mowlam, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in my presence at a plenary session of a British-Irish body in York paid tribute to George Mitchell by providing an insight into the nature of the man. She stated that on one occasion she entered his office totally frustrated by what she perceived as a lack of progress. She stated in her own way — everyone is aware of Mo Mowlam's temperament — that her frustration was beginning to manifest itself physically when she entered the office. George Mitchell, who was sitting behind his desk with a pleasant smile on his face, listened to what she had to say before saying, in a calm and reassuring voice, "Mo, sit down and we'll talk about it.". Dr. Mowlam stated that it was a measure of the man that he could see through her frustration and impatience and was able to cut to the chase. I commend the Bill to the House.

I thank Senators for their contributions to the debate and for the warm and deserved tributes they paid to Senator Mitchell. I will take on board a number of the points they made.

Senator Manning made a fair point about the need for the universities and other higher education institutions to reflect on how they raise funds, particularly in the United States and the international arena. He also stated that a more collective effort in terms of satisfying strategic objectives, both of the country and the sector, might bear more fruit.

To a certain extent, the recently announced R&D initiative which will involve an investment of £75 million from the State and £75 million from the private sector is aiming to take that route. The universities will be surrendering money they raise individually to a collective pool and the international panel will assess the projects which come forward from the various universities, which must be in accordance with their strategic objectives, etc. As already stated, some of the money will go into a collective pool and whoever meritoriously wins, will do so in terms of the value of their project. The Senator's point about five or six people being obliged to knock on the same doors is valid.

Senator Costello made a fair point about pursuing a social guarantee, which could be teased out further. Senators Ormonde and Mooney are correct in stating that there are important by-products of the scholarship scheme, particularly in terms of the continuation of the strong relationship between Ireland and the United States. People who come to this country on scholarships could, when they return to the US, play an important role in public life.

Senators Kett and O'Toole asked if the Department will restrict areas of research. I am totally opposed to ring-fencing the scheme because it must be as broad as possible. We will establish management committees, etc., to oversee the scheme. There will be basic criteria laid down but, in my opinion, all areas of inquiry and research are valid. It would be wrong to try to direct people to take certain routes. We will consult with Senator Mitchell to see if he wants particular emphasis placed on a number of areas of research. However, I am opposed to ring-fencing the scheme.

With regard to Senator Quinn's proposed amendment and Senator Henry's support of it, there is no desire to exclude anyone or any institution in Northern Ireland from participating in the scheme. There is no hidden agenda to try to exclude institutions in Northern Ireland. However, the Attorney General's advice is clear: we cannot presume to legislate for institutions in another jurisdiction. There are many areas concerning North-South relationships which appear logical and simple. However, one need only consider what has happened since the Good Friday Agreement came into being in terms of the establishment of cross-Border bodies and arriving at solutions to what should be relatively simple areas of co-operation. The House cannot legally legislate outside of this jurisdiction and there are only a few areas of criminal law where this happened in the past, and that was with prior agreement.

In addition to the George Mitchell Scholarship Fund, Secretary Riley and myself announced the establishment of Project Citizen during President Clinton's visit. This project will involve Ireland investing £500,000 and the United States investing $1 million to fund civic projects involving children and schools, North and South. Negotiations took place at that time with the Northern Ireland authorities but they were not in a position to come on board. However, that avenue remains open to them. Education has been a sensitive issue in terms of North-South relationships and it did not figure prominently in areas targeted for joint co-operation.

I must act delicately and sensitively in this area. The two Departments work well together. The European reconciliation studies programme involves a joint initiative. It is not rooted in stone that we should establish the scholarship in the precise terms set out in the legislation. If we can encourage the British Government or the new Northern Ireland Assembly to come on board, we can amend the legislation if necessary.

I accepted the amendment relating to the Irish School of Ecumenics in the Dáil because that institution specialises in conflict resolution and its courses would be attractive to students interested in pursuing post-graduate scholarships in conflict resolution or peace studies. That institution would lend itself to that kind of study. There is no reason a recipient of a scholarship could not study at that college and travel up and down to Northern Ireland for field studies. Likewise, NUI Galway, has recently established a centre for human rights, one of the first universities in the country to do so. There is no reason people could not study there and travel to the North to do research.

Before coming to the House I consulted the Attorney General on this question. His view is that we cannot presume to legislate for institutions in Northern Ireland. I will give an undertaking to the House to begin negotiations with the Northern Ireland authorities and with the British Government to persuade them to co-operate with this scholarship scheme and to facilitate the participation of universities in Northern Ireland. The issue of jurisdiction is an important one which impinges on legislation and of which we must take account. We would all like to see universities in Northern Ireland becoming involved in this programme.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take Committee Stage now.