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2 November 2016, Dublin Castle
A dhaoine uaisle, fáilte romhaibh go léir go Caislean mBaile Áth Cliath le haghaidh an eachtra tábhachtach seo "Geoscience 2016".
Is eachtra thábhachtach é seo don Roinn agus do Shuirbhéireacht Geolaíochta na hÉireann ach go háirithe, mar shárthaispeántas bliantiúl ar a ghníomhaíochtaí.
Tá mé sona sásta bheith in ann leáinseáil a dhéanamh ar tháirgí nua agus nuálach, le hagaidh ár leas-sealbhóirí tionsclaíoch agus an earnáil oideachas.
Ladies and gentlemen and distinguished guests, I am delighted to be here this morning to open this event hosted by the Geological Survey.
This is an important annual event for my Department and particularly for the Geological Survey as their annual showcase of activities, and opportunity to engage with their key stakeholders and today to launch their new Communications Strategy.
Indeed this event, Geoscience2016, particularly when taken with the Atlantic Ireland conference which I opened yesterday, underlines our Departments commitment to the impressive level of activity taking place in the Natural Resources sector in Ireland at the moment.
I am particularly pleased to be able to acknowledge the themes of the conference which cover not just updates and progress, but a focus on geological hazards. Prescient perhaps in light of this weekend's further earthquakes in Italy, but also the intersection of geoscience and climate hazard, which is featured today, is particularly appropriate given my department now has responsibility for Climate Action.
I was glad that this year, the Geological Survey was able to respond to the flooding of last winter, with the initiation of a new programme on Groundwater Flooding. This application of expertise which has been developed over many years, linked with the latest research taking place at third level, shows the important role a national agency can undertake as an independent source of information and advice. Turlough flooding has been greatly destructive in many rural areas of Ireland, and unfortunately these areas were not included in initial CFRAM studies, which focussed necessarily on areas of greater population. I therefore welcome the fact that the new programme team are already working closely with the OPW, Local Authorities and local groups to inform potential solutions.
I acknowledge that this work is built on a long history of Geological Survey groundwater work, focussed on maintaining good Drinking Water quality. I also know that this important work is continuing, on some of the most complex areas, including sand and gravels, and karst, which will be reported on later.
The area of cross border cooperation is important for my Department, perhaps now more than ever, and I know that Geological Survey have funded work in this area of karst mapping by their equivalent organisation, the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland. I am delighted therefore to officially launch the new All Ireland Karst map which will be unveiled at the meeting today.
I am also happy today to launch the Geological Survey's new Research Roadmap which sets out the important role the organisation plays in the Irish research landscape and how we expect that to develop. This government has consistently acted to grow the STEM sector, which is seen as key to our economic development, and I see this document as an important step in that regard.
The Roadmap sets out three key challenges for the Geological Survey's research programme.
- Sustainability and management of Earth's resources
- Risk mitigation for geological hazards, &
- Public perception of geoscience and citizen science
The Geological Survey will progress these elements through their established multiple role as Data Provider, Funder and Project Collaborator. I also wish to acknowledge the progress that has been made in joint research programmes recently with other research supporting bodies such as SFI, the Irish Research Council and the EPA. I am also pleased to note the recent MoU signing with Teagasc for collaboration on research particularly on groundwater and Tellus issues.
SFI, under the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is now committed to providing funding of up to €18m for the new Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geoscience (iCRAG) and I am pleased to see that the Centre will be well represented here today. It is vital that the research emerging from such an investment has an impact on future policy and that can only occur by close collaboration between the researchers and bodies such as the Geological Survey, as set out in the new Roadmap.
I welcome your feedback on this important document launched today.
I would also like to acknowledge the progress that the Geological Survey has made during the last year, on many fronts, including the major mapping programmes
I know there will be an update on the TELLUS programme today, which recently completed another major phase of operations in the west of Ireland. Last month I had the pleasure of launching the new Tellus Book: Unearthed, at the Royal Irish Academy, and this project continues to be an exemplar of Geoscience Data acquisition and communications.
The Tellus data underpins new mapping in Ireland and I am particularly pleased that an updated digital version of the Bedrock Geological Map of Ireland will also be made available from today. I know that this product will be welcomed by all of the Geological Surveys stakeholders from industry to academia.
The INFOMAR marine mapping programme is the other flagship activity of the Geological Survey and I note that this year the second phase of the programme commenced, with a return to offshore mapping by the Marine Institute in conjunction with the inshore mapping of the Geological Survey, and extensive support of researchers and SMEs.
Jobs & Budget
I also am following with great interest the development and growth of the Geoscience Ireland business cluster. I understand that today, new figures will be released showing the creation by the cluster members of 132 jobs in the first six months of 2016, which indicates that the figure of 178 jobs created in all of 2015, will likely be surpassed this year.
In the recent budget I was pleased to be able to commit to additional funding for both Tellus and INFOMAR in 2017, in addition to an increased allocation for Groundwater to fund the Groundwater Flood project. This funding underlines the commitment of my Department to the support and development of Geology in Ireland.
In closing, I know you have a long and busy agenda ahead of you. I wish you all fruitful deliberations and a successful meeting and look forward to another productive year in 2017.