Quinn urges students to learn Chinese
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has urged young people to learn Mandarin Chinese, as China is fast becoming the world's biggest superpower.
As ties between Ireland and China strengthen Mr Quinn said he would encourage Irish students to learn Mandarin as it is the most widely spoken language in the world.
"China is a very, very big market for us in every sense of the word," Mr Quinn said.
He was speaking in University College Dublin yesterday at a ceremony to mark the construction of a new building for the Confucius Institute, which Mr Quinn described as a landmark event for Irish education and Ireland's cultural ties with China.
The Confucius Institute, funded by the Chinese and Irish governments, is to be finished by 2016 and will act as a dedicated building for more than 5,000 students that enroll in Chinese studies in UCD each year.
The ceremony was also attended by Liu Yunshan, Member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China's CPC Central Committee, who together with the Labour minister attended the laying of a foundation stone for the new building.
Mr Liu's trip to Ireland marks the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Ireland and China and is the highest visit by a senior Chinese leader since that of the then vice-president and now president of China Xi Jinping in 2012.
The Chinese delegate's presence was warmly welcomed by Tourism Ireland, which said his visit would receive extensive coverage in China, providing "a unique opportunity to shine a light on Ireland for potential Chinese holidaymakers".
The new Confucius Institute building will be situated beside the lake at Belfield and will cost a total of €6m to construct.