Brexit-wary Ireland joins global club of French-speaking countries

With an eye on Brexit, Ireland has joined the club of French-speaking countries - part of its bid to develop new alliances as its main European trading partner prepares to quit the European Union.

Brexit-wary Ireland joins global club of French-speaking countries
Photo: AFP

Ireland was one of four countries to be admitted on Thursday to the International Organisation of Francophonie (OIF) as an observer, along with fellow EU member Malta, the West African state of Gambia and the US state of Louisiana.

Saudi Arabia also applied to join the 84-member club – seen mainly as a vehicle for promoting French influence – but withdrew its application at the last minute after coming under heavy criticism over its human rights record.

Ireland's European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee told AFP that Ireland “was looking beyond Brexit and developing new relationships within Europe and further afield”, including Africa, the Middle East, Canada and South America, all of which are represented in the OIF.

“With Brexit, given we'll be the only native English-speaking country in the EU, we need to place greater emphasis on languages,” said McEntee, admitting that she herself did “not speak it as well as I should.”

She said that joining the OIF was also a way to boost ties with France, which has steadfastly backed Ireland's demand that any Brexit divorce deal avoid creating new barriers between British-controlled Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

“That relationship (with France) is strong and this is just another opportunity to strengthen it,” she said.

Ireland was admitted to the club at an international summit of the French-speaking world hosted in Armenia, which has been a member since 2004 despite only having around 10,000 French speakers among its population of three million.

The two-day summit attracted many world leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

French is currently the world's fifth-most spoken language after Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish and Arabic, according to official French estimates based on the population of countries where French is an official language.

President Emmanuel Macron is anxious to get more people speaking his native tongue, particularly in Africa, seen as a wellspring of potential new French speakers.

According to the OIF, 12 percent of the Irish and 13 percent of the Maltese are francophone – more than Moldova, a full member of the OIF where only two percent of the population speak the language.



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Students and staff pay tribute to Irish university teacher murdered in Paris

Students and staff at a Paris university have spoken of their shock at the fatal stabbing of popular Irish lecturer John Dowling, who was killed by a former student outside the establishment where he taught.

Students and staff pay tribute to Irish university teacher murdered in Paris
A photo of John Dowling. Photo: Pole Universitaire Leonard de Vinci

The 66-year-old teacher, an Irishman who taught English, was stabbed repeatedly in front of the private Leonard-de-Vinci university in Courbevoie, northwest of Paris.

A Pakistani man was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of murder.

Sources said the suspect, who is in custody, was a former student at the university who was born in Pakistan in 1981 and was not previously known to police.It was not yet known whether Mr Dowling had taught the student.

Students and staff at the private university paid tribute to Mr Dowling, who was originally from Dublin.

Anne Bertrand a former student told The Local: “John was always in a good mood, always smiling, always joking. He was en excellent teacher, adapting to each student at their level, and giving them exactly what they needed

“His classes were the opposite of boring. Actually we had so much fun that sometimes, people working on the same floor had to ask us to keep it down! 

“John was as modest as he was competent. He was also a free spirit, absolutely open-minded and tolerant, and his long life experience as well as his many interests made him a delightful conversationist. His death is a great loss.”
Another ormer student Yosra Ibrahem told The Local: “He was a good person who was known and well-liked by all. He was positive, dedicated and motivated and never did anything bad to anyone.

“Mr Dowling was one of the best teachers I had throughout my whole education.”

Fellow staff member Linda McLaren said: “My heart goes out to John Dowling, fellow teacher who was brutally taken today by one of our former students.

“We had just spoken to him before leaving the university. Words cannot describe our grief as we have known John for over 15 years and he was a nice gentle man who was looking forward to his retirement.”

Stephen Amoah, a 28-year-old student from Ghana said: “It's heartbreaking. We still can't believe it.”

His classmate Jad Sharif, a 33-year-old from Lebanon, described the murdered teacher as “very kind”.

Students showed photographs of the white-bearded Irishman on their mobile phones, smiling and arm in arm with members of his class.

A statement from the Leonard de Vinci school where Mr Dowling taught paid a warm tribute to the tragic teacher.

The statement said: “On Wednesday, one of our lecturers was stabbed to death in front of the Leonard de Vinci campus. It happened outside the institution on Mona Lisa square.

“The victim is John Dowling, 66, who has been teaching English at Leonard de Vinci schools since 1999.

“The aggressor has been arrested. This person had spent a few months as a student in one of De Vinci schools and had been expelled in August 2017 as he did not validate his studies.

“John was a very friendly man, respected and loved by all students and colleagues. He was also known for his great availability and kindness.

“The community of the Pole Leonard de Vinci is deeply shocked and saddened by this tragedy of extreme violence. We express our most sincere condolences to the family and friends of John Dowling.”