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O'Cuiv to unlock the potential in Irish waters

19th February 2009

The boat show made headlines this morning when the chairman of the Marine Industry Federation called on the Government to support those who want to invest and create jobs in the sector.vAt the opening of the National Boat Show in Dublin last night, David O'Brien said that hundreds of jobs would be created in the marine industry if the Government stopped ignoring it.

Mr O'Brien said that those prepared to invest and create jobs were being blocked by the lack of a Department of the Marine and frustrated by trying to deal with sections of the marine that were spread across several Government departments.

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív, who opened the show, said the country's most overlooked natural resource was the ocean and the marine leisure sector was a potential goldmine of jobs.

Minister Ó Cuív pledged that his department would do what it could to unlock that potential.


The full text of Minister O'Cuiv's speech is here: 

A chairde,

Tá an-áthas orm a bheith anseo libh anocht agus ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil le David agus an Irish Marine Federation as a gcuireadh, an seó seo a oscailt.

I am delighted to be here with you and to see such bustle and enterprise, particularly at a time when many would have us believe that all economic activity in the country has ceased altogether! They should come and take a look at the sheer variety of exhibits here in the RDS.
As everybody knows, we will face great challenges in overcoming the present global economic crisis.  From my experience of running businesses, I know that it is no easy thing to continue to trade from week to week, or month to month in tough economic times.
However, crisis can be the source of innovation and the very pressures that crises bring often force people to look at new opportunities.  My heart goes out to all of those people currently faced with losing their jobs and losing income.   I think that it is our task now to create a positive energy out of the challenges facing us, and to identify better ways of doing business and new ways to generate income.
The importance of exploiting opportunities for micro-enterprises and small enterprises based on natural local resources would seem to me to be one of the ways forward.  This is particularly true now because of the high level of skill and education that our people have received.  We must use our ingenuity.
We have valuable untapped resources in this country.  Instead of being negative and dwelling on what we don’t have, we should now focus on finding new ways of maximising the potential of what we do have.  Our canals are the legacy of a bygone era.  We now have almost 1,000 kilometres of navigable waterways and restoration and reconstruction of the canal network is opening opportunities for many regions to attract both domestic visitors and tourists from abroad.  Work on the restoration of the Royal Canal is nearing completion and we have commenced preliminary work on restoring the stretch of the Ulster Canal from Upper Lough Erne to Clones.  I look forward to the day when the Ulster Canal is restored in its entirety and when it will be possible to navigate from Dublin via the Shannon to Lough Neagh and beyond.
Our most overlooked natural resource is the ocean.  Many people are unaware that Ireland has a larger sea area than land area.  We have already invested in small piers and harbours around the country, but we have barely started to develop the enormous potential for marine leisure and recreation in terms of regional and local development and job creation, both in the marine leisure area itself and in ancillary services and spinoffs.  Kilmore Quay in Wexford is a good, living example of this.
It is important to remember that no leisure industry or form of recreation exists in isolation.   The area of marine leisure is, to my mind, a potential goldmine.  I believe that within the larger context of rural development and diversification, marine leisure offers us the opportunity to foster vibrant, sustainable, indigenous enterprise around the country.  Marine leisure will both benefit from and support many other types of rural business; artisan foods, accommodation, walking and recreational tourism are just a few examples.
I recently launched the new Rural Development Programme, some €425m of State and European funding.  Coupled with local funding, we are unleashing an investment of over €1 billion that should create 1,200 frontline jobs and many more supporting jobs.  In recent years, I have become more and more convinced that marine leisure and rural recreation projects will play a key role in shaping the direction of rural and regional development in Ireland.  For some time, I have been working with my colleagues to see how we can unlock the potential for marine leisure from within existing resources, building on the valuable research done by the Marine Institute in this field.  

We know that at present, there are more than 5,100 jobs in the sector.  If fully developed, would it be fanciful to believe that we could increase this by half again or even double it?

This year is significant in that we will see the Volvo Ocean Race land in Galway for two weeks.  This raises the profile of marine recreation, both nationally and internationally.  It gives us an opportunity not only to showcase what we have to offer, but also, to open our eyes to the possibilities beyond that.  It will help us see how we ought to build and develop our network of infrastructure in partnership with local communities.

I wish all the exhibitors here a successful and profitable time here at the RDS.  I am sure that you will all benefit from the event, particularly in terms of meeting potential customers, making new acquaintances and exchanging ideas and experiences with others from your own fields and related areas. I am looking forward to having a look around the show and seeing the variety of products and services on display here tonight.  Finally, my congratulations to the Irish Marine Federation for organising and hosting the Allianz Dublin Boat Show. Tá áthas orm an seó seo a oscailt go hoifigiúl. Team

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