Week’s events; Rugby World Cup, tourism targets, EU Council meeting & north south relations

5th December, 2014

There are few weeks that end, or begin, with an event as exciting as the one I attended on Friday. The decision by the Irish Government and the Northern Irish Executive to support the Irish Rugby Football Union in bidding to host Rugby World Cup 2023, if successful, will unite people on both sides of the border, get the pulse of the nation racing and bring hundreds of thousands of additional tourists to Ireland in the process. As the third most popular sporting event in the world (after the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games) winning the bid, which we are confident we can, would give the entire island a chance to show the rest of the world the excellent sporting facilities we have here, the remarkable tourism product we have on offer, and most importantly how memorable the Irish people are, both on and off the pitch.


The launch for the bid took place at the Royal School in Armagh, the former alma mater of Irish Rugby winger, Tommy Bowe, and was attended by the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. The launch was followed by a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council, which sees Ministers from both administrations come together to update each other on the progress we are making and to discuss area of mutual concern. It is an excellent and collaborative forum through which ideas can be developed which will benefit both. I gave an update on how our tourism industry is doing and of course expressed my determination to lead a successful bid to bring the RWC home in 2023, in my role as Minister for Sport.


Earlier in the week I launched the Marketing Plan for Tourism Ireland for 2015, which aims to surpass our recent success in tourism in terms of the number of overseas visitors and the amount of revenue generated for the State on the back of visits. The plan is to grow the number of tourists to Ireland by more than 6% next year, welcoming 7.74 million visitors  and to deliver almost €4 billion to the Irish economy; an increase of +7% in revenue terms. Tourism is playing a really strong role in our economic recovery and I will be in a position soon to publish my Tourism Policy Statement which will prioritise investment in tourism in the period to 2025 and set out ambitious targets which I have every no doubt we can meet. .


Mid-week, I attended my first EU Transport Council meeting, as the Minister for Transport, which was held in Brussels. It was a great opportunity to meet my opposite numbers from other Member States and to raise matters relevant to the Transport element of my portfolio with them. EU funding for vital infrastructure projects, proposed changes in the rail market and the presence of drones in European airspace were some of the issues discussed. Irish Ministers’ attendance at these meetings are critical to ensuring that the Irish voice is heard, that our concerns are addressed and that we are being considered for all eventualities, especially where funding for projects that can have a real impact at home are concerned.


I had Oral PQs in the Dáil this week, attended the Irish Open Challenger Badminton Championships in the Baldoyle Badminton Centre and paid a visit to the Dominican Sisters Alzheimer Café in Cabra.


I also popped along to the lighting of the Cabra Xmas Tree which was a lovely community event, getting everyone into the Christmas mood and giving cause for reflection on the year gone by.