Check Against Delivery
Good morning everyone.
I am delighted to be with you all today to mark the occasion of the commencement of the construction of the Kerry Sports Academy here at the Institute of Technology, Tralee. It is the next step of what is an impressive master plan for the Institute and is likely to serve as a further jewel in the future of Kerry’s proud sporting community.
I would like to thank Lionel Alexander, Chairman of the Governing Board for his invitation to me to speak to you today and I would also like to extend my congratulations to all the members of the IT Tralee Foundation Board Chaired by Dick Spring and indeed to all of those involved in this project for their vision, their hard work and their determination in bringing the Kerry Sports Academy to this very important milestone.
As some of you may know, I have taken a very keen interest in this development since it was originally announced and I am very pleased to see it progressed to this stage where we can finally see ground broken.
From relatively humble beginnings since its establishment as the Regional Technical College back in 1977, the Institute of Technology here in Tralee has become much more than just an educational establishment, much more than a place for learning and study.
It has grown and expanded to the extent that it is has now become an integral part of the community. A hub for some 3,500 students, a place of employment for 350 staff and an institution that makes an enormous contribution of €60 million per annum to the local economy.
And this growth over the past 40 years has only been possible because the people involved have had the belief and the commitment to do the necessary work and to plan for the future. To have the ambition and the courage to come up with a bold idea, to dream of what might be possible. This development marks the next step forward.
And there is certainly no doubting the scope and ambition of the plans for the Academy. The Kerry Sports Academy is designed to provide an international centre of excellence for the education and training of inclusive professional practitioners. The best of friendships are often formed by participation in sports and it is fitting the Academy will serve as a home to CARA - the National Centre for Adapted Physical Activity.
It will allow all sports people at every level to enjoy, prepare and compete to the highest standards. It will serve as a national centre for people with disabilities, addressing the needs of paralympic level athletes as well as opening up a world of opportunities and accessibility to sports and recreation for all people with disabilities in our society.
It will empower people with disabilities to realise their true potential through sports, through physical activity, in an environment where the equipment and expertise are specifically adapted for their needs.
IT Tralee has an enviable international reputation for leadership in inclusion and adapted physical activity. So much so, it was the first higher education provider in the world to be awarded a UNESCO Chair in Inclusive Physical Education, Sport Fitness and Recreation.
This is a remarkable achievement and one that everybody associated with IT Tralee should be justifiably proud. The Academy will provide a fitting home for the UNESCO Chair to continue its mission to transform the lives of people with disabilities, their families and their communities through fitness and physical education.
And it is not only the UNESCO Chair and CARA that will be based in the Academy. Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Éireann will use the facility and I have also been told that Kerry GAA will use the Academy as a Centre of Excellence.
It will of course be of tremendous use to all of the Kerry based bodies and organisations I’ve just mentioned, but I believe it will also benefit other sports bodies and teams from across the entire region, perhaps even attracting visiting teams and events from abroad.
There is no doubt at all though, that it will bring added value to the country’s overall educational and sporting offering.
But as with any innovative project such as the Sports Academy, investment is required. The investment in this case is considerable, some €16.5m. The Government has been happy to make a contribution of more than half the total projected cost, by contributing €8.5m to this important project.
The balance of the funding is being raised by the IT Tralee Foundation Board and I know that they have done a tremendous amount of work over several years and worked tirelessly in raising a very significant amount of funding. I am sure that you will agree that they deserve our highest praise for all their efforts.
And I would also like to acknowledge the contribution of all of the Philanthropic Foundations, Corporate Donors and Strategic Partners that have worked with the Foundation in securing the necessary funding to help bring Kerry Sports Academy to construction.
I am sure that the drive and the spirit which has sustained and grown the Institute for many years will carry on and I look forward to other developments in the years to come. It is also worth noting that local contractors, Eamon Costello Ltd., have been awarded this project.
For the moment though, we celebrate the commencement of the building of the Kerry Sports Academy and I’m sure that you will all join me in wishing everybody associated with this project every success.