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Minister Cannon T.D. reception speech to mark 10 years of the Irish Aid Centre

A dhaoine uaisle, tá lúcháir orm fáilte a chur romhaibh chuig Teach Iveagh anocht.

I am delighted to be here with you this evening to celebrate ten years of the Irish Aid Centre, which first opened its doors to the public on 22 January 2008.

I believe it’s important to acknowledge our achievements and to recognise where we are making a real difference.

At his recent inauguration, President Higgins said “Transformation and participation takes work, requires courage and determination. It is about how we engage and interact with each other, how we speak to each other in a way that is that is open yet respectful of difference.” As educators I believe that we all have a responsibility to instill justice and human rights based values in young people from an early age. This transformation is what we can help to achieve through our work in the Irish Aid Centre. In fact SDG goal 4.7 requires us to do this and ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Interestingly in 2008, the year that the Centre was opened, Ireland had the highest proportion in the EU of its population under 9 years of age. These young people will be the generation that delivers on the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Our young people are well educated, confident and outward looking. When this confidence and energy is harnessed, when it is combined with a passion to bring about real change, anything is possible. The involvement of young people in promoting civic society space and in challenging received wisdom shows the power they can have to transform our country and our world.

The education programme at the Irish Aid Centre works to deepen engagement and understanding of broader development issues as well as the role of Ireland’s aid programme.

As Minister for International Development, I am very aware of the value of development or Global Citizenship Education, in enabling our young people to become caring and responsible Global Citizens. Development education contributes to the realisation of Irish Aid’s vision for a sustainable and just world, by providing an opportunity for people in Ireland to reflect on their roles and responsibilities as global citizens and by encouraging people to take action for a fairer and more sustainable future for all.

In the Irish Aid Development Education Strategy 2017 – 2023, we set out our ambition for development education in Ireland. Through our strategic partners, we support quality development education in primary schools, in post-primary schools through our WorldWise Global Schools programme, in third level colleges, in teacher training, in community and youth groups and also online.

As you know, Irish Aid’s development education programme is also delivered through our many partnerships with your organisations – from Programme Grant partners to small civil society organisations working in niche areas.

We recognise and appreciate the great work which is being done and its importance in strengthening public understanding of development cooperation. We look forward to furthering our partnerships as we continue to implement our Development Education Strategy.

Of course, one of our most important partners is the Department of Education and Skills. We work closely with that Department on our shared Global Citizenship Education agenda - an umbrella term which includes both Development Education and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).

Our complimentary strategies - the Development Education Strategy and the National Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development - encompass the work of both departments in developing active global citizenship among the Irish public.

We believe that strong engagement by and effective collaboration between government departments is essential in order to maximise the impact and reach of active Global Citizenship Education in Ireland.

I believe we can all be proud of our Irish Aid programme, and the results it achieves, on behalf of the Irish people.

In Irish Aid we are currently working on our new international development policy. Many of the submissions that we received highlighted the need to invest more in development education. There is no doubt that a public that is switched on and aware of the changing realities of our world will be more supportive of the outcomes that we hope to achieve in the countries in which we work.

We are here today to honour 10 years of our school workshops and educational outreach programme. I want to pay tribute to the foresight of the officers who set up the Centre. There are too many names to mention, but I want to recognise the original team of officers from the Department and the Centre guides who were the torch bearers. A special word of thanks must go to Barbara Wilson whose vision and devotion to development education kept the Centre alive. Also to Ana Maria Barbu whose commitment, passion and incredible multi-tasking ensure the continued success of the Centre.

I would like to thank all the guides and facilitators from Kimmage Development Studies Centre and SUAS Education Development, whose dedication and enthusiasm and commitment to development studies, international volunteering experience and high educational attainment add such value to our programme. The fact that the current team between them speak seven languages underlines their diversity and this does not even include singing in Swahili! Our drumming workshops are particularly popular in the Centre and at outreach events. I want to applaud the Irish Aid facilitators Michael, Tessa, Sinead, Caoimhe and Winnie along with Ana, the Centre co-ordinator who I mentioned earlier.

During these ten years, over 100,000 people have visited the Centre and our educational outreach events, including over 50,000 from the formal education section. We have worked with the colleges of education for a number of years and are delighted to see some colleagues from these colleges here tonight. Also we are delighted with our new collaboration with Hibernia College to reach more primary and post-primary student teachers across Ireland. In recent weeks our facilitators have worked with Hibernia students in Galway, Sligo, Cork, Limerick, Wexford, Laois and Dublin.

The facilitators from the Centre have showcased Irish Aid’s work at over 150 outreach events over the past ten years. In 2018 the events included the Irish Aid Volunteering Fair, BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition as well as the European Union Contest for Young Scientists held in Dublin in September, the RDS Primary Science Fairs in Dublin, Limerick and Cork, the National Ploughing Championship and Africa Day.

I know there are representatives from the current and former staff of the Irish Aid Centre, our partner organisations, educators and consultants from across the development education sector as well as representatives from the Department of Education and Skills here tonight. Your work in this area is essential to Ireland’s development education.

Also, I particularly want to thank the teachers here tonight - you are the development education ambassadors in your schools. I am delighted that Cecelia Gavigan, the recipient of the Teacher of the Year at the 2018 Our World Irish Aid Awards, is here tonight.

These Awards, which are now in their 13th year, invite children across Ireland to see the connections between the challenges facing children in some of our partner countries and children in Ireland and the role played by Ireland’s development programme. This year, for example, our featured project is one that upcycles discarded plastic in Tanzania to turn it into quality furniture. A project that could surely be replicated here.

Tonight to time to celebrate and I want to thank all of our development education partners, I wish the team at the Irish Aid Centre every success with the next decade and hope our outreach helps our citizens stay engaged with global citizenship issues for years to come.

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