CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
A dhaoine uaisle ar fad. Fáilte roimh gach duine anseo anocht.
Today we’re launching Cruinniú na Cáscaa vital part of theCreative Ireland initiative.
As you know, Creative Ireland came from the 1916 centenary programme.
To say both were hugely successful would be an understatement.
And that they were is all thanks to you.
Creative Ireland is living up to its name, its purpose, its vision.
Generating wellness and wellbeing of the person, the community, the country?
You did it.
And with Cruinniú na Cásca you will do it again.
Which is why you have the full support of the government.
Our recovery for all is still not complete.
But in a short time, we have come a long way.
But what you do what you signify is so much more
Because what you do goes well beyond anything that can be processed, measured, counted.
It cannot be put into banks or vaults or traded in the markets.
Because it is the realm of the imagination, the heart, the mind, the soul.
Last year we found ways to talk about our identity, the meaning of citizenship and the importance of community.
It was a year of debate without division of argument without rancour.
The experience of our history was personalised, democratised.
We all walked a little taller.
Thinking here’s me, this is who I am, I am of this place, this is my Ireland, real and imagined
We belonged, we were proud.
Just look at last Easter Monday.
Everybody turned out - 750,000 of us - and we were our best and danced our best and sang our best
We told our children; this is Ireland. This is you. Us.
There was joy in the veins of a nation.
We said to each other ‘God, we should do this again’.
And with Cruinniú na Cásca we are in a sense doing exactly that.
Because in a society, in a world that demands even more information and demands it incessantly
With Cruinniú na Cásca we get to ask the two questions that really matter.
Who are we?
Why are we here?
And at the end of our lives when we look back and think, What did I do?
Did I make a difference?
We won’t think, ah well, I spent my life in the office, I tried to pay the mortgage every month, I got a deal on the car.
Hopefully we will also think, I loved, I was loved.
And with the ethos of Cruinniú na Cásca that is what we are doing.
We love what makes us Irish. We are caring in a very real way in a very nourishing way for each other, for ourselves.
Historically the connection to the Rising goes without saying.
For those of the Christian faith there is the obvious association with redemption, resurrection.
For those who have faith in humanity, it is the time of new life, new light, on this planet that is our home.
It is the perfect time of year for such a gathering.
Because what and who we are gathering is ourselves, in all our incarnations, all our versions.
And we do it not just here in Dublin but all over the country.
RTÉ who were magnificent in the centenary year is equally so in its work for Cruinniú na Cásca.
I know it will continue to be in our Creative Ireland plans over the next five years.
The theme for Cruinniú na Cásca 2017 is diversity and inclusion.
In a time when our world is desperately in need of both, we get to use our particular talent for mixing serious subjects with equally serious enjoyment.
Witness the excitement of Travellers on being recognised as an ethnic group. Witness the preparations of the people in Ballaghaderreen to receive refugees fleeing from war in Syria. We were those people in the past.
This is what we need to enlighten ourselves, to remind ourselves, to reassure ourselves and each other.
Just last week in DC I launched the Ireland.ie website, a new portal for Ireland.
It is a terrific resource for those who are curious about us, the way we are.
There will be ten more major initiatives this year to get people wondering, thinking, maybe even investing, visiting.
If I say I believe that Creative Ireland is a defining policy initiative, in a sense I am diminishing it because it goes beyond a policy, it goes beyond parameters because thanks to all of you here this evening, it has a life of its own.
And that life, is the life of our country, our imagination.
We cannot make the fatal mistake of seeing potential investors as just hard-headed men and women, their eyes always on the bottom line.
Sure the bottom line is critical.
But if we fail to appeal to those men and women in the totality of the island we are, in our words, our theatre, our painting, our music, our dance, our culture.
We diminish them and diminish ourselves.
The home of Heaney and The Gloaming and Ann Enright and Sarah Baume is and should be as big a lure as our educated workforce, our infrastructure, our gateway status to and from Europe and America. And with Cruinniú na Cásca, it will be.
As a government then we thank you.
And we believe in you.
We believe in your voice no matter how uncomfortable your message might be.
Because we believe in your ‘cures, your charms, your healing wells’ and what they mean and can do for the people of this island.
For all the peoples of our world.
Onwards to Cruinniú na Cásca.
Go raibh maith agaibh.