Cork, Thursday 16 June 2005


Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests,


As a proud Corkman, I would like to welcome all our visitors to Cork , both from around Ireland and from overseas, in this our year as European Capital of Culture.


With such a wide representation here from all around Europe I am particularly glad that you will have the opportunity to sample the many aesthetic and cultural delights that this magnificent city has to offer.


You are all here with common purpose, a very important one.  The protection, management and planning of European landscapes, and to foster co-operation on common issues.  Because Europe is so large, diverse and disparate, I believe itís hugely important that people come together to discuss these issues.  There is only so much that can be achieved at distance, whether it be by e mail or telephone.  People being people, we can be much more productive when interacting face-to-face, and Iím not just saying that because Iím a politician!


Landscapes change.  They donít remain the same forever.  There are many factors which influence landscape change such as economic development, social development and climate.  However, these are factors over which humans exert enormous influence and, for that reason, it is important that we understand these interactions with our landscapes.  The Florence Convention of 2000 recognised and expertly expressed these influences and interaction for the first time.


Today, more than ever, there is great pressure on our landscapes.  Here in Ireland we know that all too well.  Our economic boom which started in the early 1990ís, exotically named the Celtic Tiger, has challenged us in many ways.  Our economic infrastructure has been required to modernise and expand at a very fast rate.  Transport links such as roads and ports are vital.  Industries such as pharmaceuticals and computer technology concentrate where there is a skilled workforce and good infrastructure.  All of these factors require Government to respond.  But we must respond in a way which not only sustains the economic development but which also sustains our environment for the generations to come.  This is the challenge.


The other great influence is social change.  This can be due to pure demographic pressures, such as natural population increases, immigration or, increasingly, migration to urban areas.  However, these donít usually happen in a vacuum.  Economic prosperity is a principal cause of demographic change as more and more people move to where there are jobs.


This economic migration is natural.  Itís being going on since the dawn of mankind.  However, particularly in urban areas, it produces constant pressure on the landscape.  This must be managed and Iím particularly glad that these workshops are particularly focused on the suburban and peri-urban landscape issues.


I believe that most people are nostalgic in some ways.  Weíre all inclined to say in a fond and somewhat sad way ďI remember when I was young that all of this used to be green fieldsĒ.  Or ďWe used to play here when we were children but now itís all goneĒ.  Thatís human nature but our landscape does change, it always has.  What we need to focus on is how best to manage, plan and protect what we have without stifling development. 

We canít live in the past but we can try to ensure that the future legacy for our children and grandchildren is one that will make them proud of us.


Your work here in Cork over these few days is important.  It will help to inform agendas around Europe .  It will provide focus, both for us here in Ireland and in all your home countries.  In this I wish you well and I offer my congratulations to Terry OíRegan of Landscape Alliance Ireland and to the Council of Europe for organising these workshops and offering me the opportunity to address you.


But I also hope that you will leave Cork with fond memories and I hope that some day you will return to spend more time in this beautiful city in this beautiful part of Ireland . 


Now please enjoy the rest of your evening after a good dayís work and I wish you every success with the rest of the work programme.


Thank you.