Week’s events: Ireland’s festivals, Cabra Youth for Street Art & tourism figs

18th August, 2014

Festivals around Ireland are a huge draw not only for Irish people but for visitors from across the world who come here to sample our artistic, musical and literary culture. With this in mind I have been spending time this week visiting some of them, in my new role as Tourism Minister.


On Monday, I was down in Avondale, at the home of Charles Stuart Parnell, to speak at the Parnell Summer School. The topic was ‘Your country needs you: patriotism in the 21st century’. It is my second year in a row to address the Summer School which is always a tremendous pleasure. My focus was on globalisation and the affects it is having in 21st century living.


On Wednesday, I travelled to Sligo for the Fleadh Cheoil, which is being held there this year and again next. The place was teaming with festival goers and street performers, of all ages and nationalities. I met with the festival organisers who introduced me to some of the 1,200 volunteers who keep the show on the road. While there, I took the opportunity to visit a Wild Atlantic Way discovery point out in Strandhill. As the first long distance touring route in Ireland, and what some have described as the longest continuous driving route in the world at 2,500km, the benefit that this initiative, which is little more than a year old, is bringing to the economy is immense. I met a group of German journalists who had come to the west to see what it’s all about and earlier that morning I conducted an interview with the Financial Times, who were sending someone to Ireland to drive the route and tell the world what we have to offer.


On Friday, I was off to Kilkenny for the Arts Festival. With performances and exhibitions set in such intimate and exquisitely beautiful settings such as the cathedral, churches and buildings which date back as far as the 13th century, it rivals some of the most prestigious arts festivals to be found anywhere in Europe.


Closer to home, I was delighted to attend the launch of an initiative with Iarnrod Eireann at Broombridge Station and the Cabra Youth for Street Art Group. A community project, which aims to reduce the level of anti-social behaviour in the area,  involved 17 and 18 year olds from the area spray painting positive messaging on designated paneling along the platform.


I headed off then to meet Niall Gibbons, the CEO of Tourism Ireland, to brief the media about the half year tourism figures, which recorded an increase of more than 10% on the same period last year. A reports published that same day by Failte Ireland outlined the fact that the lower VAT rate of 9%, which was introduced to give the tourism sector a boost in 2011 and which has been maintained ever since, is continuing to have significant benefits for the economy. It outlined how, since its introduction, more than 30,000 jobs have been added to the sector as a result of the measure being in place.


My plan is to grow the tourism sector to where it is worth 5 million to the economy, employs 250,000 people and sees 10 million visitors coming to our shores every year. The tourism policy which I intend to publish in September will point the way towards making those goals a reality.


Also met with residents of Dublin Central this week who have been hit by flooding and on whose behalf I am working. Met residents of Ratoath road and estate and Cabra on local issues this week too.