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Good afternoon everyone.
It's a pleasure to be here in Waterford for the naming and commissioning ceremonies of the LÉ George Bernard Shaw.
When Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature three years ago he became only the second person in history to win both a Nobel Prize and an Oscar.
The first – was George Bernard Shaw.
So I believe it is fitting that Shaw joins Samuel Beckett, James Joyce and William Butler Yeats in giving his name to one of our Offshore Patrol Vessels.
In his lifetime, Shaw was a fearless critic and a resolute friend, whose imagination inspired millions of people around the world. He believed in public service and would be proud to have this ship named after him, one that is embarking on a distinguished mission of service to our State and our people for decades to come.
For me, it's good to be in to Waterford today.
It's my mother's home county and I still have lots of relatives living in the Dungarvan area.
One of my first engagements as Minister for Tourism was here for the Tall Ships, a fabulous day for this great maritime city.
Our Naval Service has had a close relationship with Waterford. Since 2016 the LÉ James Joyce – a sister ship – has been twinned with this city, like the LÉ Aoife before her.
I want to extend a very warm welcome to all who travelled to Waterford for this special occasion. In particular I want to thank the members of the Department and the Naval Service project team who have worked on this project both at home and in the United Kingdom.
The LÉ George Bernard Shaw is the fourth and final vessel of the P60 Class, all of which were built in Appledore Shipyard, by Babcock Marine. Representatives from the team who have worked so hard to deliver these four vessels have joined us today from the United Kingdom. You are very welcome and thank you.
Government has invested over €270 million in this new fleet. It is taxpayers’ money, not Government money, but I think it is taxpayers’ money well spent, because of the valuable work our Naval Service does.
Today, I also want to make a special mention of Lieutenant Cian Ryan, the ship’s Engineering Officer, who was based in Appledore for the duration of the ship-build. His contribution was immeasurable, and I want to thank him personally today.
The LÉ George Bernard Shaw's first captain – Commander Frank O'Connor stood over the build and returned the vessel to Ireland.
Recently promoted, he has now handed the vessel over to her new Captain – Lieutenant Commander Philip Dicker. Thank you, Frank, for your contribution and our best wishes for the future.
LÉ George Bernard Shaw joins a modern naval fleet that serves our country with distinction.
Our Naval Service faces a wide range of challenges, now more so than ever. Our ships assert the sovereignty and integrity of our territorial waters; they protect both the waters of our country and the European Union. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the personnel of the Naval Service for their work in fishery protection, marine search and rescue, and the many other tasks you perform selflessly. In recent years, our ships have carried out hugely important humanitarian work in the Mediterranean Sea, saving thousands of lives. As a country, and as. European Union, we are grateful to our Naval Service for that as well.
The sea is an environmental and economic asset with huge potential and the Government continues to recognise the importance of the work of the Naval Service in protecting Irish maritime interests.
Our capacity to continue to do so has been strengthened considerably by the entry into service of this vessel.
So, on behalf of the Government I want to extend my best wishes to the new Captain of the LÉ George Bernard Shaw, Lieutenant Commander Philip Dicker and her crew. I know you are all looking forward to working the ship to its full potential. And I wish you all safe sailing.
Finally, I would also like to thank everyone involved in the organisation of today's event. I want to thank especially the Band of 1st Brigade, conducted by Captain Brian Prendergast, for providing the perfect soundtrack for this occasion.
I also want to pay a special thanks to Mr Sean Rainbird, the Director of the National Gallery of Ireland, who will speak to us about the important legacy George Bernard Shaw left for Ireland.
Last, but by no means least, I'd like to introduce Emily Byrne and her parents Ann-Marie and Sean. Emily's story is a profile in courage. We are delighted to have you here today, and are thankful that you are on the road to recovery following a successful liver transplant.
Emily's transplant was possible thanks to Petty Officer John Fenton, a senior Naval Diver, who donated a part of his liver to save Emily's life.
It's a very human story and one that epitomises the values of our Naval Service:
- putting other people first, service.
It reminds us of everything that is good and everything that is special about the members of our Naval Service as well and our wider Defence Forces.
So it is my great pleasure to invite Emily and her family as well as Petty Officer Fenton to perform the naming ceremony for this splendid new ship, the LÉ George Bernard Shaw.