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State Reception for the International Federation of Parks and Recreation Administration World Congress, in Dublin Castle on Monday, 3 September, 2007 at 7.10 p.m.


I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of you here at this State Reception for the 21st World Congress of the International Federation of Parks and Recreation Administration in Dublin.  It is a particular honour for us to be hosting this event during the 50th anniversary of the Federation. 

As a Dubliner, I had the unusual good fortune to grow up on a farm where my father worked in All Hallows in Drumcondra, only a mile and a half from Dublin’s city centre.  That experience instilled in me a love of the land and an enduring interest in horticulture.  It also impressed upon me just how beneficial it is to have access to green, open spaces in an urban environment.

Here in Dublin, our public parks occupy a prized and important place in our city and county.  We are deeply fortunate to be able to celebrate such a great diversity of parks and gardens close to the heart of the city. 

These range from the elegance of our famous Georgian squares such as Merrion Square to the beauty of the Botanic Gardens and the wide open spaces of the Phoenix Park. 

You need only look into St. Stephen’s Green on a sunny afternoon or take a stroll around the Botanic Gardens, as I often do, to see the popularity and the value of parks for the urban population.  In this busy world, we all need space, in the literal as well as the physical sense, to pause, take a deep breath and delight in the natural world. 

I know that you will be hearing a lot about the public parks story here in Ireland over the two days of this conference and that you will have a chance to visit some of our parks in the city and the county during the course of your visit.

Of course, I know that I am preaching to the converted here when I say that parks, and the opportunities that they offer for recreation and activity, play a key part in promoting sustainable communities.

The importance of community as the bedrock for society cannot be overstated.  How we design the physical environment for our communities can have a major impact on how they develop and succeed. 

This was an issue that was recognised by a Taskforce on Active Citizenship which I established in 2006 to advise my Government on how to ensure that the wealth of civic spirit and active participation already present in Ireland continues to grow and develop. 

In their Report, published earlier this year, the Taskforce supported the growing emphasis in Government policy on sustainable communities.  They also urged that provision of community and recreational facilities be a core requirement for all major new housing developments.

But parks are not just important to us because of their economic and social significance.  These days, the issues of global warming and climate change are never far off the agenda.  By making parks central to our physical urban development, we can ensure that they also play a part in promoting environmental sustainability.

And in recent years, with the expansion of Dublin city into the suburbs, and an increasing population, we have seen greater demand for parks.   Fortunately, the local authorities have been pro-active in acquiring land and Dublin’s parks now make up 16% of the metropolitan land area, representing the highest proportion compared with other European cities.  The achievements of the Dublin City and Dublin County Councils in providing and developing public parks are to be highly commended.

I want to congratulate the four Dublin local authorities and the Office of Public Works on hosting this important conference.  I must make particular mention of Dr. Christy Boylan, Chair of IFPRA Europe and Senior Parks Superintendent with South Dublin County Council, who has been central to this event, along with all the members of the organising committee.

I would also like to compliment your organisation for the important role that it plays in providing an international network for people who work in the provision of public parks.  With over 750 members worldwide since its establishment 50 years ago, the Federation has worked hard to promote parks, recreation and related services.

Your success is reflected in this year’s world congress which sees delegates registered from almost 30 countries and includes over 40 speakers from around the world.  The theme of this congress:  Parks:  A Celebration of Diversity is well reflected in the programme which encompasses a broad and stimulating range of topics.  I know that in today’s sessions you have already been given considerable food for thought and I have no doubt that tomorrow’s speakers will be equally inspiring.

Of course today was also an important day because your President Yoritaka Tashiro from Japan has concluded his term of office and has handed over the position to Rob Small from Australia. 

I know that the Federation is very grateful to Mr. Tashiro for his great input and I am sure you will all join with me in wishing every success to Mr Small in his new role.  

Thanks also go to the sponsors of this event which include Bord Bia, Failte Eireann, and the Heritage Council amongst many others. 

It only remains for me to thank you all for coming to Dublin to participate in this event and to wish you every success for the rest of this World Congress of the International Federation of Parks and Recreation Administration.

Thank you.