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TechnoTeachers Association Conference


In the I am delighted to be with you all here in Portumna this afternoon to open your annual conference. Thank you for your warm welcome.

I would like to thank your national executive for their kind invitation to speak with you this afternoon. I know that you have a heavy programme and I am only sorry that I can't stay a longer time.You have chosen an exceptional Irish designer- Shane Holland - as your key note speaker.

Shane has carried out work in my press office in the recent past and I know that you will find he has a very interesting point of view. I suspect that Shane, like me, will really like the theme of this years conference -"Not just Wooden Thinking".

Its very catchy.I think it aptly represents your association's philosophy in recent years.It also seems very relevant to the sort of approach we have been taking in this country right across the board in recent years too.As a result of that new approach and a new spirit of partnership and confidence, Ireland is changing and changing very fast. We have become a leading economy and a modern society - and these changes are grounded in the skills and talents of our people.We are seeing unprecedented change, across all areas of Irish life.

We are a leading economy in the high technology industries and we are well on the way to being a multi-cultural society.One thing we can all agree on is that a key factor in our success has been the quality of our educational system.As a country, we are indebted to teachers for the enormous public good you have generated through teaching. You have offered Irish children the skills and the confidence to meet the challenges of these changing times.

I can assure you of the continued support of Government as you seek to meet the challenges of the years ahead.Going forward, we certainly will need much more than "wooden thinking".

No doubt, the prophets of doom will point to the dead wood or dry rot in this country.

For my own part, I really believe that the future we are headed for captures the best qualities of wood- adaptability, flexibility and durability.

But, it is very clear that education and teaching is vital if we are to unlock those qualities in our community - and the God given potential of all our children.

Education in design, in craft and in technology for boys and girls in this country has a critical role to play if we are to stay ahead.We are fortunate to have your organisation so active, and so expert on the key issues we face. I would like to pay tribute to your association on your role in developing technological education in recent years.Eight years ago, in co-operation with the NCCA and the Department of Education and Science, you developed and implemented Materials Technology Wood.

Back then, 7,500 pupils sat the Junior Cert.Woodwork examination. Last year that figure was more than double. Well done ! That increase is down to your outstanding contribution, as teachers and as an association. I have a feeling that one of the reasons why your subjects is becoming so popular is because young people now are really interested in design and the visual arts.

In my day C.A.D was a word which spelt something quite different and had a different meaning ! It certainly wasn't cool. Now Computer Aided Design is almost taking over ! Its a highly popular choice and is now part and parcel of the new "Design and Communication Graphics" course! Great credit goes to you also for all your work over the years in helping students to design Junior Certificate Wood projects.

I know the projects reflect key social themes like racial and cultural diversity and the environment. These are big issues and they are of great interest to idealistic young people. We need to encourage their idealism . Projects like these can help do just that and build awareness about vital issues too.

As an organisation I know that you are active in various national bodies too. Thank you for your inputs to the three new Leaving Certificate courses which, all going well, will be implemented in 2003.

I know too that you have voicedconcerns in the past about health and safety issues. I am pleased that progress has been made to date and the Department isto provide funding for dust extraction systems in all of your workshops over the coming year. I know that more needs to be done, particularly in the light of new European Legislation and I can assure you that we will continue to address the issue. I am delighted also today to officially launch your new association name and your logo.

From today you are known as "TechnoTeachers Association".Your new logo is dynamic and forward-looking and, I think it reflects the philosophy of your association, which is "to promote and enhance the complete range of technological subjects".Along with your name and logo it is my pleasure to officially launch your new Web site. I am delighted to see a body such as yours making use of modern technology to improve communications. I am proud of the fact that every Irish school is now equipped with computers. All schools now have Internet access, and most of the teachers have received I.T. training through the IT 2000 programme. It is indeed noteworthy that a significant number of your members were involved in the delivery of that IT 2000 training, proving, yet again, that you have always been to the forefront in the I.T. sector.

My final duty today is to present awards, specially commissioned by your association, to those students who have received the best marks in the country in your subject area. It is of course quite an achievement to receive agrade Ain any examination, but to receive the best results in the country is a truly remarkable achievement. Your success reminds us that design and technology is now regarded as essential a part of Irish life as our musical or our sporting traditions. It's great to meet young people who are at the leading edge of the dynamic, creative Ireland of which we are so proud. I therefore sincerely commend all of you who are receiving awards here today. Well done to you, your teachers and your parents !

Finally, I congratulate the newly named TechnoTeachers Association on the organisation of today's conference.Well done and every success with your very important work for the children and the future of this country.

Go raibh maith agaibh go léir

Shannon Oaks Hotel, Portumna, Co. Galway, Friday 23 November, 2001 at 1.15pm