An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that for the first time in Ireland, every graduate of medicine will be offered an internship within the health system as part of the effort to battle the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Varadkar made the pledge as he addressed the University College Cork Medicine graduates of 2020 - whose exams and graduation were brought forward to get more doctors into the field amid the pandemic.
A total of 197 graduates were conferred in today’s ceremony - the first in UCC’s 175 year history to be conducted entirely online.
"I know we're living in very strange times as a pandemic affects the world," Mr Varadkar said in a pre-recorded message.
"You're graduating early, and you're doing so without being able to celebrate with your friends and your families as I know you'd like to. But there will be a time for that in the months ahead, when we develop new treatments, a new vaccine, a much better and more effective testing and contact tracing regime.
"In the meantime, we need you to graduate early, and to start work as interns already, because there's so much work to be done.
"I know you will be starting in posts in the middle of May, in hospitals, and also some of you in community settings, and for the first time ever, we are providing for over 1,000 internships for medical graduates in Ireland.
"That pretty much means that everyone graduating this year will be offered an internship," he said.
UCC President Patrick O’Shea paid tribute to those graduating in unprecedented circumstances.
"We understand that this ceremony will not fully replace being on our beautiful UCC campus in person.
"Still, we hope it will go some way towards expressing our gratitude to you, as we celebrate your significant achievements on the occasion of your graduation from University College Cork.
"Your resilience and adaptability in responding to Covid-19 is genuinely remarkable and has no doubt prepared you for the challenges and rewards of the career path you have chosen.
"I wish you every success in your careers. We are all deeply proud of your accomplishments.
"What you have achieved in 2020, and indeed this event itself will constitute an essential chapter in the history of your University, your Alma Mater, University College Cork. My sincerest congratulations to you all," he said.
Professor Helen Whelton, Head of the College of Medicine and Health, UCC and Chief Academic Officer to the HSE SSWHG lauded the graduates for their resolve in such difficult times.
"Worldwide, the leadership, commitment, resilience and excellence of your profession in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic has been acknowledged and lauded.
"Today marks a most special commencement ceremony for you all.
"My colleagues and I, as university and professional representatives, are truly honored to be with you virtually to celebrate your graduation from student to medical doctor.
"It is a true testament to your character and resolve to have excelled during these unprecedented times.
"The entire University is proud of you and supports you."