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Minister Shatter launches IRIS, the Joint Ireland Israel Programme on Road Safety

On the final day of his St Patrick’s day programme in the Middle East, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter T.D., today met with officials from UNRWA and OCHA and representatives of Israeli and Palestinian Non Government Organisations engaged in humanitarian work in the West Bank and Gaza.  The Minister received detailed briefings on the work of the organisations and had discussions with the officials and representatives across a broad range of issues of mutual interest. 


Following this meeting, the Minister opened the joint "Ireland Israel Seminar on Road Safety" which was held in Jerusalem.  Over the past number of years, both countries have successfully reduced the level of road fatalities very significantly and the purpose of the meeting today was to exchange experiences and information on the road safety programmes operating in both countries and to learn from each other on successful initiatives undertaken by the relevant authorities.  Noel Brett from the Road Safety Authority and Chief Superintendant Aidan Reid from An Garda Síochána presented the Irish experience while Ms Rachel Goldwag, Director of Research for the Israeli National Road Safety Authority made a presentation on the Israeli experience.  As a result of the seminar, a new joint programme called "IRIS" has been established.  Under the IRIS programme, it is anticipated that there will be exchanges of staff between Ireland and Israel and ongoing exchanges of information, data and experience between the road safety authorities in both countries so that both can learn from best practice and each others initiatives.  A jointly funded research programme is also under consideration. 


Later in the afternoon, the Minister attended the inaugural meeting in Israel of the Israel Ireland Business Network in Tel Aviv University.  Over the past few months, the Network which was established by Clyde Hutchinson, has expanded from an initial idea to its current membership of 300.  The Network links young professionals, companies and research institutes engaged in technology development, research and innovation.  Inaugurating the Network in Israel today, the Minister emphasised that Ireland was open for business, provided a positive environment for new business, research partnerships and innovation and that the Irish Government was committed to supporting research and development in high tech industry.  Commenting on the fact that Israeli companies have more companies quoted on NASDAQ than the EU 27 combined, the Minister said "Ireland would like to emulate the Israeli experience in the area of company formation and innovation in indigeneous high tech industry and research".  The Minister pointed to the commonality of interests between both countries in the area of economic and industrial development and innovation.  Commenting on the events of the day the Minister said "There is much Ireland and Israel hold in common and that should be a key focus of our interaction.  We both have a significant stake in research, technology development and innovation.  Both our economies depend on SMEs and export markets to deliver jobs, growth and economic stability.  We also have much to learn from each other in areas of concern to our citizens such as road safety.  If anything, today demonstrated the important and substantive issues of common concern to our citizens which link Ireland, Israel and indeed many other countries and how we can work together, at individual, company and government level for our mutual benefit".  


The Minister concluded the day in the home of the Irish Ambassador, Mr Breifne O’Reilly celebrating St Patrick’s day with many of the Irish diaspora in Israel, friends of Ireland and members of the diplomatic corps.  Special guests at the event were outgoing Minister for Justice, Mr Yaakov Neeman and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Mr Isaac Hertzog whose grandfather was Chief Rabbi of Ireland.  Speaking at the event both welcomed Minister Shatter’s visit to Israel and his positive engagement on a number of important issues of mutual interest over the course of the visit.  Minister Shatter, referring to the fact that it is anticipated 400 former members of the Irish Jewish community will be participating in events as part of The Gathering, encouraged all members of the Irish Diaspora in Israel to visit Ireland and participate in these events.