Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Scrap tuition fees, Kenny advised

Elon Musk at the Dublin Web Summit

Billionaire technology entrepreneur Elon Musk has given Taoiseach Enda Kenny advice on getting Ireland back to the future - scrap university fees.

The man behind PayPal, electric car company Tesla and space explorers SpaceX told the Fine Gael leader to make it easier for people to study engineering here.

"For technological companies, you need engineers," he said.

"Maybe engineering could be tuition (fees) free or something like that."

South African born Mr Musk, 42, offered his wisdom to the premier during the closing ceremony of the two-day Dublin Web Summit at the RDS.

His recommendation drew prolonged applause from hundreds gathered in the main hall to hear the pair during an interview.

But Mr Musk quickly added that there would have to be conditions attached to free third-level fees.

"They've got to stay in Ireland. They can't just bail," he said of graduates.

Mr Musk drove Mr Kenny into the arena in one of his Tesla electric cars, which he revealed will be produced in right-hand drive models by next spring.

The Taoiseach described the car as an "extraordinary vehicle" with a "trunk in the front and a trunk in the back".

Referring to Henry Ford's production plant in Cork, he urged Mr Musk to consider Ireland as a base for manufacturing.

"If you are looking for a good base," he said.

"Seriously, if you are coming to Europe with Tesla, we will compete with the best, so if you are going to do that, give us a chance, we'll give you a fair hearing and our workers will not let you down."

When Mr Musk recalled being in Ireland as a child, the Taoiseach joked: "You keep coming back here... We need you."