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Speech by the Taoiseach, Mr. Enda Kenny, T.D., at the presentation of the Seán Lemass Awards for Enterprise 2011 and 2012

I’m pleased to be here to present the 2011 and 2012 Seán Lemass Awards for Enterprise. Thank you for inviting me.

Enterprise and initiative are two of the things absolutely necessary for Ireland’s recovery. So are you, our talented young people.

Today then is an important day not just for you, your teachers and families, but for our country. Because you are the future. What you do now and in the years ahead will secure our country’s future. And from what I see here today, that the future is bright and it is in good hands. Your families, schools and communities should be very proud of you.

In particular, I would like to thank Caroline McHale and Michael O’Leary, Greg Swift, Michael Nevin and Yvonne O’Neill for their work in organising these awards. It’s a big task. Done with enormous professionalism, commitment and spirit.

Enterprising Participants

The winners here are worthy. Not only because of their success which we celebrate here today, but because of the endeavour, imagination and courage shown by everyone who took part, both in the Student Enterprise initiative and the Transition Year ‘Get Up and Go’ competition. But you are not alone in this. Your government supports you. And I want you to have every confidence that you can rely on the government to develop both the idea and the potential of enterprise, as things that start not just in the workplace, but while our young men and woman are still at school.

The winners faced stiff competition, with over 15,000 students taking part in the two competitions in 2011 and 17,000 in 2012.

Innovation and enterprise bring not just new products, new services and new opportunities, they bring, equally, the possibility for collaboration in their execution and therefore a real sense of real communities sharing real wealth. And indeed a wealth that goes beyond money.

This is crucial. Because in the challenges we face now - using the knowledge skills and creativity of people and translating it into business processes, products and services - lies at the heart of Ireland’s future competitiveness.


Seán Lemass was Taoiseach from 1959 to 1966 and in many ways embodied the concept of enterprise. He was the man who was passionate about industrial growth, upgrading our infrastructure, for example in promoting Aer Lingus.

He paved the way for free trade, encouraging firms overseas to invest and locate in Ireland.

In this context, he was an enthusiastic supporter of Irish membership of the then EEC, the European Economic Community.

He did so much to establish Ireland as an open, enterprising and modern economy.

I want this to continue.


The European Commission has targeted enterprise as being one of the 8 key competences which all students should have by the end of second level education.

Why? Because enterprise makes change happen. Enterprise helps people in making and adapting to and working with that change.

Through enterprise, we take our power and our responsibility and work with them, laying out a strategy, setting objectives, meeting objectives, nurturing motivation to try new things, to succeed and fail at new things, and through the experience of both, develop motivation, curiosity and confidence.

That’s where it’s at and I commend all the schools involved here for developing the enterprise idea and culture among their students.

Look at what all of you have done. And crucially have done together.

You show and know how a business idea can be brought from a thought through to production, supported by all the planning, evaluation, research, marketing and accounting necessary to bring it all to reality.

You know how to work as a team, you know the value of collaboration and communication. Your eyes have been opened to a new world, new possibility. Not just enterprise skills but life skills that will serve you well in every aspect of your lives.


The competitions “Student Enterprise” and “Get Up and Go” are an integral part of promoting enterprise in our post-primary schools.

At junior cycle level, the vital enterprise culture is promoted by making sure our young people are encouraged to be curious and to investigate ideas and opportunities. They’re given key skills in languages, ICT, technology. I expect there’s not a parent here who, in desperation, hasn’t called in the young expert in the house to help them with their technology.

The revised junior cycle that will start gradually from 2014 will give schools better and more opportunity to make entrepreneurship a key part of their programme.

School-developed short courses can also be part of the new Junior Cycle programme. From what I see here and from the quality of all the projects involved, the schools here are well placed to do that and also to bring back the experts – the past pupils.

In senior cycle students taking the Transition Year option, the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme and the Leaving Certificate Applied are provided with specific opportunities to acquire enterprise skills.

These programmes place a strong focus on active learning, community-based approaches, personal development and teamwork. Students have the vital opportunity of work experience.

Work experience is crucial in two ways. It can confirm to you in your choice of career. But it can equally and just as importantly tell you what you don’t want, despite perhaps, initial thoughts to the contrary. A vital life skill.

The Transition Year programme is now followed by half the school population in over three quarters of our schools.

The mini-company “Get up and Go” programme is proving highly successful in TY. Students get a chance to be CEO, project manager, accountant and get a range of experience in areas like finance, marketing, human and industrial relations.

In 2011, almost 18,000 students – a third of the cohort - sat the examination in Leaving Certificate Business.

Over 16,000 students (28.5% of the cohort) sat the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme in 2011, where the link modules –Preparation for the World of Work and Enterprise Education form an explicit part of the curriculum.

This is examinable as part of the Leaving Certificate and brings CAO points for entry to higher education.


As your Taoiseach, your CEO, I am so very proud of every one of you. As a father myself, I am deeply proud of your parents. They supported you. And as a teacher, I know the work it takes to get talented students to this level. Congratulations. These young people are a credit to you all.

And to these young people themselves I say – thank you. You did this.