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Event: Ministerial Visit to Marine Institute Date: 15 February 2018 Speaking Note for Minister Creed

Importance of the work of Marine Institute to DAFM policy agenda

The Marine Institute is one of my Department’s key Marine Agencies and plays a key and very direct role in delivering on my Department’s policy agenda for example in the context of the annual Fisheries Council in December of each year where the scientific research undertaken by the institute plays a vital role in securing quotas for Ireland’s fishing industry.  The Marine Institute provides an excellent service by delivering scientific advice on the state of fish stocks through ICES and in this way ensuring that the fish stocks on which our seafood sector is reliant are fished sustainably and protected for future generations.

 I also at this time must thank you for all the work done in providing data to inform our BREXIT negotiations.  Your work has been incorporated into a document “FACTSHEET” which gives the full picture of fishing within Irelands 200 mile zone and all the detail of fishing within the UK zone.    Thank you very much for this work which will form the basis for our understanding and discussions during the challenging BREXIT negotiations.   I must also thank you for the work you are doing supporting the aquaculture industry.  The Department is committed to a heavy work programme to bring the aquaculture licenses up to date within the next 24 months.  This work is fully dependant on the Marine Institute providing all the necessary analysis and detail in relation to Natura requirements.  It is a challenge for us all and I am fully confident that working together we will meet the delivery targets set down. 

This Institute plays a key role in supporting the implementation of Ireland’s integrated marine plan Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth (HOOW), Ireland’s blue growth policy agenda and in the associated work of the high level Marine Coordination Group (MCG)  which I chair.

I want to acknowledge the role of the Chairman Dr John Killeen and his Board members as well as the work of Dr Peter Heffernan CEO and his Senior Management team. I am delighted to confirm that the full complement of the existing Board has been re-established in my recently confirmed appointments and I wish them all well for the future.

Corporate Governance

I am pleased to hear from our discussion this morning with the Board and the assurances given that the Marine Institute operates best practice in terms of Corporate Governance.  You have assured me also that you are fully compliant with the new Code of Practice for the Governance of Public Bodies. This is an important benchmark for the Institute and one which must be maintained in an era where the issue of Governance of Ireland’s diverse range of Public Sector Agencies is under such close scrutiny, and properly so.

New MI Strategy “Building Ocean Knowledge. Delivering Ocean Services”

In my positive interactions with the Board today, I was delighted to hear more details of your new draft strategic plan “Building Ocean Knowledge. Delivering Ocean Services” which I am aware has been developed in consultation with your stakeholders (and with my own Department).  Developing such a plan is important to all effective organisations and I am pleased to see that the institute has consulted widely before submitting that plan to me.

I have confidence in the professional and consultative  approach the Board has taken in devising the strategy and the defined and clear focus on the four strategic focal areas, namely:

a.     Scientific Advice & Services
b.     Forecasting Ocean & Climate Change
c.     Research & Innovation
d.     Ireland’s Ocean Economy
as well as the four Strategic enablers:
e.     People
f.      Infrastructure
g.     Data & IT
h.     Education & Awareness

Research Grants/Climate Change Agenda
The performance of Marine Institute researchers in securing over €4M from the EU Horizon 2020 fund with an outstanding 35% success rate for proposals.   This is in addition to  €5M coming  from other competitive EU funding programmes.  Overall this  provides evidence of a cutting edge organisation.   I understand the pipeline for further successful proposals is strong & I wish you every success with them.

I was delighted to announce the recipients of funding (in Nov 2017) for the Marine Institute research & infrastructure grant awards.    I welcome the focus in the organisation on contributing to what is perhaps one of mankind’s greatest contemporary challenges, the issue of how to accurately predict and address,  climate change.

Seafest/HOOW Summit

As Minister, I have been very impressed with the great achievement of recent years; SEAFEST has provided a showcase for Ireland’s diverse marine sector with the Our Ocean Wealth Summit & the associated business events and national maritime festival.     To have grown Seafest within three years to an event attracting over 100,000 visitors is truly outstanding achievement in engaging people – I know the Taoiseach was also very impressed when he visited Seafest shortly after taking office, last year.

I mentioned Blue Growth and Harnessing our ocean wealth earlier, it is greatly encouraging to see the progress Ireland has made in achieving the socio-economic 2020 target of €6.4B in turnover – reported at €5.7B in 2016.   It is also important to recall that the ability to measure and track that socio-economic performance has come about thanks to the key role played by MI in the establishment and funding of SEMRU (The Socio Economic Marine Research Unit) which I am aware has been a successful collaboration between NUIG & Teagasc, another of my Department’s agencies.

MI Vessels & Proposal for Replacement Vessel for MV Celtic Voyager

A wonderful job has been done over the years in building and successfully operating the MI’s world class infrastructure not least of which is this wonderful HQ & Laboratory complex; your facility in Newport and the research vessels Celtic Voyager & the Celtic Explorer as well as the ROV Holland which we recall played such a pivotal role in the search for the Coastguard Rescue 116 helicopter off Blacksod last year which was such a tragic event.

I am aware from your CEO and Chairman and from my own officials of the proposal for a replacement vessel for the Celtic Voyager. This proposal which is being progressed by your own personnel and my own Department officials will when finalised be fully evaluated by the appropriate Government agencies with the hope of securing the necessary Government funding in due course.

MI Staff & Ambitions for the future

As with all successful organisations, your programme of work cannot be delivered without excellent staff and I want to pay tribute to all of the staff of MI here today and to the record of solid and progressive achievement to date.

I am impressed by the ambition for the MI as expressed in your new strategic plan – The Marine Institute, as a global leader in ocean knowledge, empowering Ireland and its people to safeguard and harness our ocean wealth and my Department and I will support you in the challenges ahead.

The challenge for my Department and the Government of sustainably managing Ireland’s marine resource, our greatest natural asset, is onerous, and there are significant challenges ahead most notably Brexit and wider global issues such as climate change and pollution. The services delivered by the Marine Institute together with the dynamic implementation of your new strategic plan will play an important role in the Government’s endeavours to successfully navigate through these daunting challenges in the years ahead.

Thank You