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Speech by The Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD, Commissioning of the Naval Offshore Patrol Vessel LÉ William Butler Yeats, Galway, Monday 17th October 2016


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I’m delighted to be here this afternoon for the naming and commissioning ceremony of the LÉ William Butler Yeats.
Our beloved Laureate joins James Joyce and Samuel Beckett in giving his name to one of our naval vessels.
And indeed WB Yeats’ grandchildren join us here today.
Caitríona, Siobhán and Padraig Yeats, we are delighted to have you.
At earlier commissionings, I wondered about Joyce and Beckett on their evening perambulations, listening to the “music along the river” - which, of course, was the Seine.
And how probably, neither of them suspected for even a second that their country would honour them thus.
Except of course, when it comes to Joyce, Beckett and now William Butler Yeats, the honour is indeed immense and it is ours alone.
Today we stand not on the banks of the Seine but Cois Coirbe.
On certain days if you look hard enough along the horizon you can see Grainnuaile, Tiobaid na Long…
Over the Atlantic roar, probably increasing as the ocean warms, there’s the cannon of the Spanish Armada...The immortal souls of those who manned the guns of the San Esteban and the San Marcos, waiting over 400 years for their mortal remains to be discovered.
And it is the life of the soul, be it in dialogue with itself, or summoned or pilgrim, consumed the poet, his work and life from “the ignominy of boyhood” to “finished man”.
There is a particular resonance in the place we meet today.
It was here the remains of WB Yeats were repatriated in the autumn of 1948, on the first foreign mission by an Irish Naval Service Ship: the LÉ Macha, sailing from Nice here to Galway.
It was the beginning of a tradition that would establish Ireland’s naval personnel as exemplary both in their achievements and in their attitude.
We are proud of their work in the Mediterranean where they bring not just hope and comfort, but life itself to the migrant men, women and children pulled from the sea.
Often it is an Irish face, an Irish voice that brings the first sign in a long time that as human beings, we are all of us ‘kind’ with each other.
Equally, as a people with a long history of emigration, we must remember that as humans we don’t give birth to ‘migrants’. We give birth to children, who, if they are lucky, grow to adulthood.
Ireland is committed to playing its part in addressing the migrant crisis particularly in terms of the Middle East.
Indeed it is my wish that we will, in time, have a naval vessel that is a fully functional hospital, able to respond to humanitarian and other emergencies across the globe.
I believe it is in keeping with our rich tradition of charity and volunteering.
Our maritime and naval tradition is very much a rich one due in no small part to the commitment and quality of personnel.
The working relationship among all those men and women who designed and built this vessel, be they here at home or in the UK, has been excellent.
That this is the fifth ship in the Irish Naval Service fleet built in Appledore tells the story of how effective the management and collaboration have been. Indeed we have another vessel due in 2018.
I wish to commend Lieutenant Commander Des Murphy, the ship’s Engineering Officer who was based in Appledore in Devon for the duration of the build of this ship over 18 months.
The primary day-to-day tasking of the Naval Service is to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with national legislation and the State’s obligations as a member of the European Union.
All vessels are multi-tasked in the sense that, in addition to their fishery protection role, they also undertake general surveillance, security, pollution monitoring, and marine Search and Rescue support, amongst other duties whilst on patrol.
Since 2012, with the publication of Ireland’s first ever integrated plan for our marine economy, Harnessing our Ocean Wealth, Ireland’s marine sector has become an increasingly vibrant part of our national economy. This transformation is being brought about by the commitment and hard work of a range of committed individuals from both the public and private sectors.
In the Programme for a Partnership Government 2016, this Government formally recognises the sea which surrounds this island as our greatest national resource. We have given a firm commitment to continue to develop our blue economy which will be a priority for my Government.
Earlier this year, the City of Galway also hosted the second annual national maritime festival ‘SeaFest’. When the first ever SeaFest was hosted in 2015 in Ringaskiddy & Haulbowline, the Naval Service once again played a significant role.
This year’s SeaFest was attended by over 60,000 people in the port of Galway over a four day period with a wide range of events from stakeholder conferences at NUI Galway to family fun initiatives at the port and city centre to increase the level of public engagement with the sea and also promote Irish seafood. These are a very useful example of how the blue economy can be successfully promoted.
This magnificent new vessel being formally commissioned and named here today will inevitably be involved in such work on behalf of Ireland and the wider European Union. It will assist in a really practical way in the development of Ireland’s blue economy by helping to protect our waters and lucrative fisheries resources.
The fish landed into our ports and the fish and shellfish farmed around our coast are worth close to €500 million alone before any value is added through processing and innovation. A large port like Castletownbere, Co. Cork lands seafood worth over €113 million while a smaller ports like Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford has landings of over €15 million.
This revenue alone is vital to our coastal communities. The sector is a notable asset to Ireland’s agri-business portfolio and the Naval Service with vessels such as this helps to safeguard this investment.
And indeed it is in safe hands.
I extend my very best wishes and that of the Government to the Captain of LÉ William Butler Yeats, Lieutenant Commander Eric Timon and his crew. I know that they are all looking forward to working the ship to its full potential in the years ahead. I wish them all safe sailing and fair winds on LÉ William Butler Yeats.
I would also like to thank the many people involved in organising today’s event, it is very much appreciated. I would like to pay my compliments to the Band of the 2nd Brigade, under the baton of Captain Tom Kelly. They are, as usual, providing a great sense of occasion to the events today.
But now it is my great pleasure to invite Ms. Caitríona Yeats to perform the naming ceremony for this splendid new ship, LÉ William Butler Yeats.