Speech at a Reception for the Irish Paralympic Team
Áras an Uachtaráin, Wednesday, 12 October 2016
A Airí Ross agus O'Donovan,
A Dhaoine Uaisle, agus a Chairde Gael,
Is cúis mhór áthais dom fíorchaoin fáilte a fhearadh romhaibh go léir chuig Áras an Uachtaráin tráthnóna.
[Ministers Ross and O'Donovan,
Ladies and Gentlemen, and Dear Friends,
I am delighted to warmly welcome you to Áras an Uachtaráin this afternoon.]
On behalf of everyone who loves sport, everyone who followed with great pride and interest your sporting endeavours in Rio, I am delighted to welcome you to Áras an Uachtaráin this afternoon, to this celebration of your efforts and achievements at the second-largest sporting event in the world, the Paralympic Games. The 2016 Games were truly thrilling and this is evident not only in the 11 medals won by Team Ireland but also by the amount of personal achievements and individual records broken by our 48-strong team.
All of you athletes in this room know more than anyone else that in sport there is never certainty about the outcome, there are no certain winners, but there are always courageous and committed athletes. That is part of the challenging journey each man and woman in sport must travel, one of the challenges they face and overcome.
You, the members of the Irish Paralympic Team who competed in Rio, know only too well how tight the margins are between winning and losing, at the level of competing in excellence, how much courage it takes to face up to those margins, to accept the risks, to commit to the ethic of competing, of being tested rigorously and accepting the outcome whatever it is. We in Ireland are proud of you and are very grateful to you for going the distance of your training and participation, making so many sacrifices, to be the very best, and to be Ireland’s best.
The 11 medals won exceeded the target of eight medals that had been set before the Games. You won four gold, four silver and three bronze medals. To the medal winners, I offer my congratulation but I also want to commend all who competed in the green of Ireland on your great achievements. You are part of that remarkable elite known as Irish Olympians. Your experiences and achievements will serve to inspire the imagination of others.
To the Paralympic Council, the Sports Council, coaches, families, partners, administrators, officials, sponsors and supporters, I thank you for everything you did to make it all come together in Rio, the long hours, the training sessions, the willing on, the guidance, the sacrifices you had to make to be there for the team, not to mention the heart-stopping moments, that your relatives and the wider public endured during the competitions themselves.
As Rio 2016 becomes a memory, some of you are already beginning to focus on Tokyo 2020. For the rest of us in Ireland it is four years away. For you the preparation starts here and now and I wish you well and I wish a similar experience to all the new sportsmen and women who will emerge in the next four years inspired by you and determined to realise their Olympic dreams.
Comhghairdeas libh go léir arís. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.