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Speech at 30th Anniversary of the Connemara Environmental Education and Cultural Centre

Connemara, Galway, 17th October 2014

Tá áthas orm a bheith anseo inniu chun comóradh 30 bliain Ionad Cultúir Timpeallachta agus Oideachais Chonamara a cheiliúradh libh. Ba mhaith liom mo bhíochas a ghabháil libh as ucht bhur fíorchaoin fáilte, agus ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh libh as ucht na siamsaíochta taitneamhach sin.

[I am delighted to be here today to celebrate with you the 30th anniversary of the Connemara Environmental and Educational Cultural Centre. I would like to thank you all for your warm welcome, and may I also congratulate you for that enjoyable entertainment.] 

I am well aware that the aim of this centre is to raise environmental awareness and provide heritage education at a local and national level; an objective you have been successfully achieving, and indeed further developing, since 1984. 

As Uachtaráin na hÉireann I welcome this emphasis on the importance of retaining and nurturing the social networks and historical heritage which lies at the heart of our communities. It provides often vital moments of reconnection to a shared past that binds and unites us as citizens.

By identifying, giving recognition to, and encouraging the ongoing development of culture and creativity in our society we create the foundations for a fulfilling and inclusive citizenship; a citizenship built on a sense of shared meaning, heritage and identity.

Here, in the Connemara Environmental and Educational Cultural Centre, there exists a deep awareness of the significance of our shared heritage, and also of the responsibility that falls on each and every one of us to preserve that heritage and to pass it on to future generations.

In a rapidly changing and globalised society, it can be all too easy to ignore historic and environmental preservation and their significance to the ongoing and ethical development of society, allowing them to be subsumed by a desire to modernise uncritically and move forward in a global and technological age without that involvement being fully understood or located in an appropriated ethical framework.

Today we have thankfully become somewhat more aware of the serious consequences of failure to protect and conserve our environment. We have also become profoundly alert to the importance of striving to ensure that the society and world we leave behind us will be ethical and just. With that awareness has come an understanding of the moral questions raised by the damage inflicted on our planet by climate change, and of the need to preserve and protect the earth’s natural resources.

Spaces like the Connemara Environmental and Educational Cultural Centre fulfil an important need in today’s society. By providing access to seminars, training courses, workshops and published material, you have greatly contributed to a growing concern about the threats facing our earth systems; and a wider consciousness of the poverty, hunger and damage that have become such a serious global challenge in the 21st century.

You have also awoken in the many people who partake in activities in this centre an understanding of how our natural landscape must not only be celebrated but preserved and nurtured for future generations.

We owe a great debt of gratitude therefore to the three people who came together thirty years ago in a great spirit of cultural empathy and citizenship to create this place of community solidarity.  Leo Hallissey, Clare O’Toole and  Aingeal Ni Chonghaile can be very proud of all they have achieved here. The work the centre has offered to develop and increase environmental awareness and to celebrate our national heritage is invaluable.

Today marks the commencement of Connemara Sea Week, a celebration of our marine heritage centred around a most inspiring programme. And later today I will have the opportunity to visit the Smallworks Exhibition and the opening of the Letterfrack Poetry Trail, both inspirational examples of the many innovative ways in which this centre identifies, recognises and encourages the ongoing development of culture and creativity within the community.

There can be no doubt that, three decades after its foundation, the Connemara Environmental and Educational Cultural Centre continues to pioneer, to push boundaries and to allow us to imagine, and aim to realise, a better world.

Tréaslaím libh as ucht an méid sin, agus tréaslaím leis an uile duine a bhfuil baint acu leis an obair thábhachtach seo, agus gabhaim buíochas libh arís as ucht fáilte a fhearradh romham anseo inniu. 

[I commend you for that, I congratulate everyone involved with this important work, and I thank you once again for welcoming me here today.]

Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.