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Speech by Taoiseach, Micheál Martin T.D - Wheel National Summit 2022

Check Against Delivery

Good afternoon everybody


It is always a great pleasure and indeed a privilege to speak at The Wheel’s National Summit. And, of course, it is an added bonus to be here with you in person today.


The community and voluntary sector is, at its heart, about people.


People from every walk of life doing extraordinary things.


Often this work is done quietly and in the background. So, I am delighted to have the opportunity this afternoon to publicly acknowledge and thank you for the countless hours you spend striving to make this world, your country and countless communities a better place.


Yours is a sector that spans the breadth of Irish and international life. Your work makes a difference to the fabric of our daily lives and it has a positive impact on our health, our education and our environment.


It tackles social exclusion and poverty. It supports human rights and seeks a fairer world for all. It also enables us to participate in and celebrate our rich culture and our heritage.


When I addressed you virtually last year, we remained in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while we were unsure what lay ahead, I was truly struck by the resilience and determination shown by the people and organisations that make up the community and voluntary, charity sector in this country.


Throughout the pandemic you player a crucially important role in our great, shared national effort.


Ensuring no-one was left behind as you reached into every community in even the most remote areas of our country,helping to create a real sense of well-being for our most vulnerable citizens.


You were an important part of the effort to provide the reassurance that they were not alone, not forgotten and that help was always at hand.


I have said it before and I know Minister O Brien has already acknowledged and praised your contribution to our national well-being, but I want to thank you again today for your heroic work.


Amidst the turbulence of a pandemic, the consequence of wars and the ensuing economic instability your work and dedication is a shining light.  And to quote Desmond Tutu  -  “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”


And we are living through a period of history when hope and light and optimism are most welcome!


No sooner had the pressures of COVID-19 begun to subside, than we found ourselves responding to the crisis in Ukraine.


As a sector, and without hesitation, you again stepped up to the mark.  Thanks to the efforts of all of you, thousands of vulnerable people fleeing war feel welcomed and safe.


I continue to be inspired by the hugely important work that many of you are undertaking in welcoming, accommodating and integrating our new communities. And I assure you Government is listening to the feedback you provide.


I am keenly aware of the unique challenges faced by the community and voluntary sector and, with my Government colleagues, we are committed to working together to alleviate some of the burden.


Indeed, this work had already begun, even before the value of our partnerships and mutual support was highlighted in response to the pandemic.


Our current five-year strategy was co-authored with the sector and therefore set out a mutually agreed general direction of travel for government policy, providing an agreed vision for community development, local development and the community and voluntary sector over coming years.


This is an ever-evolving discussion and I know that the potential for greater partnership between statutory bodies and the Community and Voluntary Sector was explored in some depth earlier today.  


I am particularly interested to learn about the opportunities for building on where it works well and extending this across the system.  And we already have a good starting point based on the NESC report on the Community Call: Learning for the Future.


One of the observations in the report was that changed working practices in, and between, statutory and community and voluntary organisations delivered improved outcomes. This has important long-term implications as we engage   with the lessons learned and incorporate them into the policies and practices for the future.


Without the partnership between Government and your sector, many people who need and are receiving support, might not otherwise receive it.


And that is one of the reasons why we are working to adopt an agreed set of Values and Principles for Collaboration and Partnership-Working with the Community and Voluntary Sector at a Local and National Level.


This important work is being championed by the Department of Rural and Community Development and my colleagues Minister Humphreys and Minister of State O’Brien.


The completion of this project will mark an important milestone in strengthening the relationship between the state and the community and voluntary sector.


I know that our shared aim it that these agreed values and principles will help foster an ever-greater culture of mutual respect and understanding as Government works with you to meet the challenges we face as a society.


And I know that they will also be of great benefit as we collaborate to assist those affected by the Ukrainian crisis.


More and more, policymakers and others are recognising the breadth and reach of the Community and Voluntary Sector and its value, not just in supporting our country’s social fabric but also in its significant economic contribution.


This conference today is an important opportunity for politicians and policy-makers. Not simply to listen, but also to participate! 


The relationship between Government agencies and the voluntary sector and social economy is hugely important to both society and the economy in Ireland.


I welcome the launch of the Leadership Academy this morning as a tangible outcome of the priority we have placed at national level in upskilling our workforce.


I welcome the creation of this new model for leadership development in the sector as a positive outcome of the National Training Fund’s work.


Minister Harris is working with the OECD to do a review of the National Skills Strategy and I encourage community and voluntary organisations to fully engage in that process so as to ensure the new strategy works for all of our current and future workforce.


The Government I lead is committed to continued open and transparent engagement with the sector in the pursuit of these most positive outcomes and intend to continue this work through the establishment of a National Civic Forum for discussions with the sector later this year.


While the Department of Rural and Community Development is leading this work, my own Department is fully supportive and engaged in the process.


Thapaigh mé an deis anuraidh mo bhuíochas a chur in iúl daoibh go léir as bhur dteacht aniar, dúthracht agus obair chrua. Cuirim an buíochas ó chroí sin in iúl arís inniu thar ceann an Rialtais agus thar ceann mhuintir na hÉireann.


Tréaslaím libh an méid atá bainte amach agaibh agus an tionchar a imríonn sibh, agus táim ag súil le bheith ag obair go dlúth leis an earnáil sna míonna agus sna blianta atá le teacht.


Last year I took the opportunity to convey my thanks to you all – for your resilience, dedication and hard work. Today, I reiterate that sincere gratitude on behalf of Government, and on behalf of the people of Ireland.


I congratulate you for all you have achieved and the impact you make, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with the sector in the months and years ahead.


Go raibh maith agaibh.