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MoS Ciarán Cannon - Attendance at the Our World Irish Aid Awards National Final Dublin Castle

Dia dhaoibh a dhaoine uaisle. Tá fíor-áthas orm a bheith anseo libh inniú i gCaisleán Bhaile Atha Cliath le haghaidh Gradam Chunamh Eireann Ár nDomhan 2019.

Hello everybody. I am delighted to be here today in Dublin Castle for the National Final of the 2019 Our World Irish Aid Awards.

This is a wonderful event, showcasing the incredible work being done in our primary schools all over Ireland. I was lucky enough to be at the National Final last year and I was very moved by the talent and the passion of our young people.

As you may know, this is the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s flagship programme for primary schools and it has been running for fourteen years now, since before the children here were born.

Again this year, primary schools from all over Ireland took part in the Awards. 60 schools made it to the regional finals in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Sligo, and today you are the top 12 finalists out of all of those schools!

So you have done amazing work to achieve this, and have clearly shown that you care about the world and are interested in learning about global issues.

You and your teachers can feel very proud of all your work.

I was very impressed with your colourful display boards. They really gave a sense of all the hard work you have put into your projects, and how much you have learnt about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the work of the Government’s aid programme.

Because Ireland, along with the other countries of the United Nations, have been working very hard for many years we are now seeing some impressive results. For example over the last 20 years, the number of children receiving an education has almost doubled.

The number of extremely poor people in the world has been halved and the number of infants dying as a result of poverty has also been halved.

In addition, Ireland recently produced a new policy on international development called "A Better World". The team were preparing it for a year and consulted people all over Ireland. A Better World promises to leave No One behind, and to help the furthest behind first.

As you have learnt by taking part in the Awards, our lives are linked to the lives of people in other countries. Now more than ever before, what happens in one part of the world affects the rest of the world.

We live in an interconnected world which is full of opportunities for children of your age.

But we also live in a world that still has serious problems - one big problem for our world is inequality. Although many people have plenty of money and enjoy good lives, there are many millions of people, especially in developing countries, who are living in extreme poverty and hardship – and who worry about their children’s future.

Another serious problem is the damage to our planet which is now contributing to climate change.

These are some of the biggest dangers facing our world today. But we know we are capable of solving these challenges if we all work together. And that’s why the UN Sustainable Development Goals are so important.

As your projects show, these Goals aim to make our world better and fairer; to stop climate change and protect the environment, to give every child on the planet the chance to grow up healthy, to have a good future for all children and their families and to ensure that no one is left behind.

It is evident that you have learnt a considerable amount by taking part in the Our World Irish Aid Awards. I am really encouraged by how you have applied that learning to your daily lives, in full knowledge that we all have a role to play when it comes to biodiversity and sustainability and minimising the negative impact of our actions everywhere, including on those living in the Global south, who often contribute least to climate change.

We can achieve the Goals if all countries work together as partners. As well as leaders and governments, all citizens need to be dedicated and play their part for the Goals to be achieved.

To do this everyone needs to be informed about this important plan to create a better world and a better future.

By taking part in the Our World Awards you have not only been learning about the Goals but you have spread the word and informed other people in your communities about them.

In your projects on the theme of “Leave No One Behind”, you have looked at how all the world is connected. You learned that each and every person counts and deserves a fair opportunity regardless of who they are or where they live.

In this year’s pupils’ magazine, you learned how the company Dunia Designs is responding to the problem of plastic in Tanzania. Their recycling project is supported by the Government’s aid programme, which is working on behalf of all Irish people and is playing its part to contribute to a better world.

While we may live thousands of miles away from Tanzania and other countries in the developing world, the way we live our lives make a difference to theirs.

Your projects show how on this planet of over 7.6 billion people, with thousands of different languages, cultures and lifestyles – we all share one planet and one future.

And you have come up with many great ideas about what you and other people can do in their everyday life to help to create a better world and a better future for everyone.

All governments and all citizens need to work to achieve these important global Goals over the next 11 years.

And I know this really matters to you - because in 2030 you may be 23 or 24 years old. You will want to be living in a world where the environment is safe and protected, and where all children have an equal chance in life.

The Government, on behalf of the Irish people, has promised that Ireland will work really hard with other countries to achieve these Goals, both here at home and especially in some of the countries where the Government’s aid programme is working.

And you have begun to play your part, by learning about the Sustainable Development Goals, and also by telling your friends, family and others in your schools, and communities about the Goals.

Taking part in these Awards is one of the best things you can do to become active global citizens who not only care about these issues, but want to do something to make a difference.

Indeed, President Michael D. Higgins said that, as global citizens, we must never hesitate to raise our voice in union with all those who pursue a more just world, making new connections with each other and with the vulnerable planet we all inhabit.

From seeing the standard of your projects, I can understand how you were selected as the 12 finalists, and also how hard it must have been for the judges to decide on an overall winner! The creativity and range of media you have used is truly impressive! Well done to all.

I also want to acknowledge all the other projects and schools who took part in the Awards this year. There were entries from all over the country which has created a community of support for the Goals across Ireland, of which we can all be very proud.

So I would like to congratulate all pupils and teachers here today on the great achievement of reaching the final of the Our World Awards. I’m sure you will agree that many thanks are due to your teachers who gave you so much encouragement and guidance, and to your schools who made it possible for you to participate in the Awards and to come to Dublin Castle today. We should also have a special word of thanks to all your parents and families too for their support.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh. Comhghairdeas libh agus bain sult as an lá.

And, now to the part you have been waiting for so patiently – the presentation of the Awards. I will now call on Tom to get the show on the road!