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Speech on the occasion of Access 'All Area's Day', at The Helix, Dublin City University


Introductory Remarks

I want to say what a great pleasure it is to be here on this very special day for The Helix, for DCU and the city as a whole.

I am sure that the many people who are visiting here today will be very impressed, as I am, with this stunning new arts centre. It is wonderful to see Government funding of over €6.35 million put to such fine use on the North side, which is now the proud home to the only multi-purpose arts centre in the country.

I would like to offer warmest congratulations to all involved in this great project. It is a wonderful example of vision paying off to the benefit of all the community. And I am delighted that you intend this to be a centre which will be of use to the people here in DCU, as well as the wider community of Dublin and beyond.

I know that a special word of thanks must also go to Dr. Tim Mahony, Chairman of Toyota Ireland for his generous support. Your help, along with the support of others, has been vital to delivering this fantastic €35.5 million project. I salute you for this lasting contribution to the life of the University and the city.

I know that the team in the Helix have a very full programme of events coming up which I wish success to. It is certainly varied with artists such as Bjorn Again, Charlie Landsborough, the Reduced Shakespeare Company, the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre and even the Russian Ice Stars.

When I am speaking about the economy, I usually hope for great performances and low interest rates. In the case of the Helix I will make an exception and hope that you get great performances and that the interest rates go very, very high indeed and stay there!

I want to pay a particular tribute to the entire construction and design team involved in bringing this beautiful new building to fruition. It certainly is breathtaking. I am sure it is a source of great pride to Ferdinand that it is a countryman of his from Poland who has designed this wonderful building, and it is also good news for Dubliners as well; because we now get to have two great Polish people make such a difference, for the better, here in Dublin.

Thanks to the great design and construction team the quality of the facilities here are right up there with the best in the world. So well done for such a wide range of facilities, which mean that almost any type of performance, from opera, dance, and drama can take place here. I suppose political dramas are not allowed they are normally confined to the Southside near Kildare Street!


The arts play an important part of Irish life. Right throughout the years, our artists have won awards and been acclaimed all over the world. I am delighted that the better economic climate of the last five years has seen more opportunities open up for artists and those involved in the arts. Our strong economy certainly has generated capacity for additional investment by Government too. I am very proud that investment has really spiralled from €26 million in 1997 to over €47 million last year, which is an increase of over 80%, and that spending in other areas of Government on arts related policies and projects is up too. There is also an increased commitment by Local Authorities in the development of the arts and major investment in infrastructure in the National Cultural Institutions.

That investment is a strong foundation on which we can now build as we implement agreed strategies for the Arts in this country. I am delighted to have seen this great flowering in the arts take place in communities all over because the arts are certainly one of the hallmarks of a thriving society. It also is a benchmark of where we stand as a people and how we see ourselves going forward.

One of the really encouraging things about this development is that it demonstrates the progress we are making on several fronts at once. Firstly, it reflects genuine, practical progress in improving arts facilities in this country.

Secondly, at a time when more voices than ever have questioned Ireland's shared European culture, history and heritage this development reaffirms our openness to the very best of European performing arts and culture. As such it expresses clearly our determination to stay at the heart of the arts mainstream in Europe and internationally. On the day of an historic vote for Ireland and Europe, this new centre reminds us of how vital it is to have institutions which bring people together to share their talents and their creativity for the good of themselves, the arts and the whole community.

Thirdly, it demonstrates how DCU is advancing as a centre of learning and excellence. By this I mean, a place where learning, research, and innovation meet and we see cross-fertilisation of the best ideas with the best people to create new opportunities for all our people. This new centre makes a clear statement about your commitment to knowledge and learning in the arts, commerce and the sciences. I congratulate DCU for this work to encourage talented people from key disciplines, many backgrounds, and diverse outlooks to develop their expertise and their co-operation to the benefit of us all.

I believe that given the pace of change in the global economy, the development of new linkages between arts, science and business disciplines are absolutely fundamental to improving our quality of life and also to our sense of ourselves as a country. It is also critical if we are to continue to develop the sort of industries and jobs that will underpin a highly successful economy and an inclusive open society in this country in the years ahead. And there is no doubt that the arts have a central role in our mission to develop Ireland as Europes leading knowledge based society.

There are many other countries of course that are trying to do this also and to get ahead of us. But when I see the great progress that is being made all over the country to create stimulating places of learning, I feel great confidence that we are on the right road to securing our position as a country at the forefront of the arts and the knowledge economy too.

I know that you have great plans for 'The Helix' to be considered to as the most recognised cultural venue in Ireland. I would say that you are well on your way to achieving that objective. I want to finish by restating congratulations to everyone involved in making this centre a reality. You have done the people of Dublin, and indeed Ireland a marvellous service for your dedication in providing us with an arts centre to compare with, and rival, the very best.

I want to wish everyone involved in 'The Helix' every success into the future and you can count on my full support in your work here in DCU.

Enjoy the day!