Week’s events; NCTs, Tourism Ireland in Berlin, NSMC, Aer Lingus & Cricket World Cup 2015

8th March, 2015

Following on from the media attention that National Car Tests (NCTs) have been getting in recent months, I was in the Seanad on Mondayto outline the measures that have been introduced by the Road Safety Authority (RSA), under whose remit the NCT falls, to improve services at test centres. Among them is the introduction of 24 hour testing at specified centres in Dublin and Cork, which came on stream this week, the provision of additional test lanes, the recruitment of additional vehicle inspectors and longer opening hours at some centres. Since driving without an NCT came within the fixed charge notice system last December, there has been a rise in the number of people attempting to secure a test. These measures all contribute to meeting customers’ requirements and ensuring that test are delivered in a timely manner and NCTS staff are to be commended for the flexibility they have shown in making these improvements. I reiterate again that if people are experiencing difficulty in getting a test at a time that suits them, they should call the NCTS directly for priority booking as the number of slots available online does not accurately reflect the actual number of appointments that are available.


On Wednesday I travelled to Berlin to attend the ITB 2015, which is the largest tourism trade fair in the world. Attracting some 170,000 visitors each year, from 189 countries, it offers a great opportunity to target further growth from the key German market and build on the more than half a million tourist from that country who paid us a visit last year.


On Wednesday, I was in Armagh to chair my first North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) Tourism meeting. These meetings provide a great opportunity for Ministers from north and south of the border to discuss areas of mutual concern and to seek to identify areas of where we can work together to the benefit of both. During the meeting, Tourism Ireland’s Business Plan for 2015 was approved, which aims to target further growth in overseas visits to Ireland this year of 6% and increase revenue by 7%.


While there I paid a visit to the fascinating Armagh Public Library, which dates back to 1771 and which houses a first edition of Jonathan swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, complete with annotations by the author’s own hand. I also saw a map of the Phibsborough, Cabra and Grangegorman area that dates back to 1835. The Library was in pristine condition and it was a pleasure to have been shown around and to leaf through some of the thousands of books kept there.


In respect of Aer Lingus, which continues to attract much media interest, I confirmed that that the Government’s Inter Departmental Steering Group held a meeting on Wednesday afternoon with representatives from International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG), at their request. A further meeting is planned before the end of next week.


I called on the people of North strand this week. Good to meet them and to hear their issues of concern.

The end of the week saw the Irish cricket team beat Zimbabwe in the Cricket World Cup 2015, which was a fantastic result. The team is playing brilliantly, making those who have travelled down under to support them, and the rest of us at home, exceptionally proud.