President officially opens sports extravaganza event for visually impaired sports people

Sat 21st May, 2016 | 13:30
location: ALSAA Sports Complex, Dublin Airport

ALSAA Sports Complex, Dublin Airport

Saturday, 21st May, 2016

Speech at the Official Opening of Vision Sports Ireland’s MayFest 2016

ALSAA Sports Complex, Dublin, 21st May 2016

A Chairde Gael,

Is mór an pléisiúir dom é MayFest 2016 a oscailt. Is mian liom buíochas a ghabháil le Sarah McLoughlin agus le Vision Sports Ireland as a gcuireadh caoin dom bheith in bhur dteannta don teacht le chéile tábhachtach seo den phobal dall, an phobal lagamhairc, a cairde agus a múintir.

[It is my great pleasure to open MayFest 2016. May I thank Sarah McLoughlin and Vision Sports Ireland for the kind invitation to join you this afternoon. I hope that you will all enjoy this feast of sport, and I extend a special welcome – fearaim fíorchaoin fáilte romhaibh – to those who have travelled from overseas to take part in this important annual celebration that brings together the visually impaired, their families and friends.]

The May Games, as they were called when they were first launched, in 1981, provide a great opportunity for people of all ages and nationalities to discover and try new sports, test their skills, but also share experiences and forge new friendships. This year’s MayFest began yesterday with the ‘TalkFest’ conference, which, I am told, was a very productive and informative occasion for organisations and national bodies active in the area of sports and disability. Today’s day of sport is the highlight of the weekend, showcasing as it does a variety of exciting disciplines, such as rowing, tandem cycling and football, to mention but a few.

I am delighted to have this opportunity to salute the leadership of Joe Geraghty, Vice Chairperson of Vision Sports Ireland, who did so much to bring to life the ‘MayFest’ concept. On behalf of everyone here today, I also want to pay tribute to your outgoing Chairperson, Robert Dobbyn, who, with his wife Kate, has been associated with MayFest for over a decade. It was also Robert who brought along the volunteer students from Mount Anville School, who add so much to the event.

So many of you here embody the great spirit of volunteerism which is the driving force behind Vision Sports Ireland, and indeed behind so many non-profit organisations and citizens’ associations whose members contribute selflessly, and on a daily basis, to building a stronger and better Ireland. As President Ireland, I thank and congratulate all of you who are willing to give of your time, energy and skills to ensure that those of our citizens who are blind or visually impaired can live up to their full potential and pursue their full measure of happiness.

Events such as today’s demonstrate the wealth of sporting opportunities that exist for visually impaired people – activities through which they can embrace the enjoyment and benefits that go with physical activity, play, team spirit and the surpassing of one’s own limits.

Importantly, such events also help in challenging some of the perceptions, or, rather, misconceptions, that can prevail in wider society as to blindness in particular, and disability more generally. The interest sparked by major international events such as the Paralympic Games; the inspiration provided by such people as Jason Smyth, world record holder and 4 time Paralympic gold medallist, have also contributed to opening up possibilities and removing unnecessary barriers, whether mental or practical, to full participation.

Of course, not everyone has the ambition of becoming a gold medal winner like Jason; but everyone can set their own goals and challenges, work to acquire new skills, push their own boundaries, while at the same time enjoying the feeling of physical and mental well-being and the rich social life that so often go with sporting activities.

As Stephen Hawking, the eminent physicist and cosmologist, put it in his opening speech at the London Paralympics, a few years ago:

“There should be no boundary to human endeavour ... The Paralympic Games are about transforming our perception of the world. We are all different, there is no such thing as a standard or run-of-the-mill human being, but we share the same human spirit. What is important is that we have the ability to create. This creativity can take many forms, from physical achievement to theoretical physics.”


Mar fhocal scoir, is mian liom gach éinne a d'eagraigh an deireadh seachtaine spraoí agus cairdis seo a mholadh arís. Guím gach rath oraibh don deireadh seachtaine agus i gcomhair na mblianta amach romhainn.

[To conclude, may I, once again, commend all those involved in organising this weekend of fun and friendship. I wish good luck to all the participants in your activities over the next two days, and the very best in your future endeavours. I hope that you all have the most enjoyable of weekends!]

Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.