Remarks at the Sea Sessions Surf Music Festival
30th June 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here with you in Bundoran at the 2012 Sea Sessions Surf Music Festival.
I wish to warmly welcome those of you who have come here from overseas to attend or take part in Sea Sessions events. You are most welcome to Ireland and to this most beautiful part of County Donegal.
I am sure that you have been enjoying this great celebration of music, surfing, the arts and all the wonderful things on offer here in the North West of Ireland. The programme for the festival this year is impressive, including as it does, more than fifty musical acts from Ireland and overseas, along with beach sports, competitions and many more enjoyable activities. There is truly something for everyone here in Bundoran this weekend.
Of course, a major focus of this festival is on surfing. The huge popularity of this water sport is a relatively new phenomenon in Ireland. There can be absolutely no doubt however, that, in recent years, surfing has been going from strength to strength with more and more people enjoying this great sport. We now have our own international surfing stars, who compete at the highest level around the World. They are proud to represent their country and we are privileged to have them as sporting ambassadors.
We have produced many international judges of world ranking and Bundoran has, of course, become a major European venue for surfing, being chosen to host the European Championships last September. (International surfing stars)
Here in Ireland we place a high degree of importance on the role of festivals and events in the development of our modern tourism industry. Festivals provide us with a wonderful opportunity to showcase all that is good about our country and allows visitors from overseas to experience Irish hospitality and the welcome for which we are so well-known around the world.
We have many annual festivals in Ireland based on many different themes. However, a festival such as this one where we combine our love of music with a true enjoyment of our natural surroundings and all they have to offer us is indeed a very special occasion. This festival is also lent a special authenticity by its association with the people of Bundoran who have such a strong connection with this place and with all the enjoyment their landscape and this wonderful coast can offer.
I have fond memories of my visit to this festival last year along with the exceptionally warm and gracious welcome that I received from those attending. It was my daughter Alice-Mary who brought this festival to my attention initially and I am particularly grateful to both Alice-Mary and the Gallagher family who accompanied me throughout my visit. I am delighted to be back here 12 months later, as President of Ireland, to see the festival as vibrant as ever.
The Sea Sessions festival has been recognised for its quality at the Irish Festival Awards, where it was voted the Best Small Festival in 2011. I am also delighted to learn that it is among the finalists for the Best Tourist Attraction at the 2012 Local Authority Members Awards. These are great achievements and I commend the organisers of Sea Sessions for their admirable work which contributes so much to our tourism sector and to our popularity amongst music and sports fans around the world.
Next year Ireland is hosting an event called The Gathering 2013. This will be the biggest tourism initiative ever staged in Ireland and will consist of a year-long programme of festivals, events and other gatherings in every region of the country. While The Gathering is being supported by the Government, it will be led by individuals and communities. It is targeted at people living abroad with a connection to Ireland, whether through birth, ancestry, family connections, friendships, business, education or personal interest. It is an opportunity to harness real community spirit in a meaningful and worthwhile way.
I hope that many of those visiting Ireland for this year’s Sea Sessions will return here next year to participate in Gathering events.
Finally I would like to wish you all a very enjoyable weekend of music, beach sports and other great activities here in Bundoran.
Thank you very much.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.