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Minister, Chairman, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It’s a real privilege to be here to officially open this new development. The Curragh is the keeper of Ireland's racing traditions and this is the home of some of our biggest sporting and social occasions.
As you know this project is the culmination of an extensive redevelopment programme, the scale of which has never been seen before.
The Curragh has always played an important part in the story of our country and, thanks to this new development, we can be confident that you will play an important role in our future as well.
The Curragh has gained much more than a new stand. This is a complete redevelopment and you now have a facility to match the best in the world.
The Government, through Horse Racing Ireland, invested over €36 million in this project, about 40% of the total cost, because we recognised the significance of the Curragh to Irish society.
We were joined by investors who shared our vision for the Curragh.
The Curragh has been a focal point for horse racing in Ireland for millennia.
In the ancient Glossary of Cormac of Cashel the word Cuirreach is defined as ‘race-course’. In the ancient book of records, Bruden Da Derga, the Curragh appears as the Cuirreach Lifé, the Curragh of the Liffey, and it was famous across the country for its race meetings. And it tells the story of how King Conari, the king of Ireland, brought four chariots here to race in the Cluichi, or Games, over two thousand years ago.
This truly is Ireland’s Ancient East.
Today the Curragh is an acknowledged centre of excellence in every aspect of the thoroughbred industry. At the heart of Kildare, Ireland’s thoroughbred county.
I would like to congratulate everyone involved in this two-year project. You have completely transformed the headquarters of Irish racing.
Irish racing fans have long been able to see some of the very best racehorses in the world compete here. Now, thanks to this development, the facilities on this side of the running rail will match the action on the track.
From this new grandstand we can see the famed Curragh training grounds, and 1,500 acres of world-class training facilities. Thousands of horses are trained here on the gallops every year, making this the largest public training centre in the country.
The success of this project shows how public-private projects can work together to deliver for a community.
I want to thank everyone involved in this work. The project team, the Curragh board, all those who have invested in the project, Horse Racing Ireland and the Irish Horse Regulatory Board.
The success of the horse racing and breeding industries matter for our country. They provide hours of entertainment, they contribute significantly to the economy, and they generate considerable inward foreign investment. It’s worth almost €2 billion, sustaining almost 30,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Today, we are the second largest producer of bloodstock by value, which is a remarkable achievement and a testament to the quality of Irish bloodstock.
Minister Creed’s work on behalf of horse racing in Ireland has been strong and decisive and he has worked closely with Horse Racing Ireland on projects such as this one. He has shown the same strength and decisiveness in his work on behalf of Irish agriculture, as we face difficult external threats.
This new development has enormous tourism benefits. And as a Government we are committed to developing horse-racing’s potential as a tourism offering.
Through Fáilte Ireland, we recently invested €2 million into the nearby Irish National Stud and Gardens to create the Irish Racehorse Experience.
This investment is significant for Kildare as a whole, and it will be a big draw for international tourists and horse-racing enthusiasts from around the world.
As part of Ireland’s Ancient East tourism experience we are working on ‘The Sport of Kings’ visitor experience development plan to further develop the horse-racing theme. This will bring together the public and private sector as well as the local community to maximise the potential of Kildare’s strong links with the racing and thoroughbred industry.
We also gave over €150,000 to Kildare Town Heritage Centre to develop its ‘Kildare – Live and Legend’ project because we believe in its vision. It will bring the history and stories of Kildare to life and will link with the equestrian heritage that has the Curragh at its heart.
Unlocking the potential of The Curragh is at the centre of our vision for Ireland’s Ancient East.
Thanks to this new development the Curragh will continue to be ‘where champions are made’.
Champions who contribute to Ireland’s success story.
I wish you all the best and every success into the future.