Ministers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.
This is a red-letter day for the National Sports Campus and for Irish sport. This is a huge national asset and the opening of new facilities makes a strong statement about how we view sport in our country.
So it’s fitting that we are joined today by many of the people who helped make this possible.
I am a great believer in Government investment in sport.
Sport helps bring communities together in a way that is both remarkable and inspiring.
Sport can engender enormous national pride when our teams do well. As well as enormous local loyalty.
Playing a sport keeps our bodies healthy and it keeps our minds healthy.
Putting PE on the Leaving Cert as an exam subject like music or art or English is one way the Government is recognising the value of physical exercise.
It’s the same reason we are investing so much in sporting organisations and in sporting infrastructure. The budget increased by 12% last year as part of our strategy to double it by 2027.
In the 2019 round of the Sports Capital Programme we will invest €40 million to help sports clubs and communities to develop sports infrastructure around the country. And there is a special focus on women’s participation in sport.
As you all know, when our athletes and teams compete at the highest level they carry our hopes and our dreams. We share their heartache in defeat, their joy in victory. We are with them win or lose. And we back them with resources.
I believe the Tokyo Olympics are going to be our best ever topping London and Melbourne. I want to wish all our athletes and teams the very best in the games.
The Government’s mission is to provide world-class facilities so our athletes and teams can compete on the world stage. It has been driving the work of Minister Ross and Minister Griffin.
In Project Ireland 2040, our National Development Plan, we renewed our commitment to complete this Campus.
And I am delighted that funding for the development of this National Indoor Arena Phase 2 project was prioritised under the Plan.
Funding for the Velodrome and National Badminton Centre is too.
Of course, this indoor facility will also benefit the wider community here in Dublin 15.
It is right that facilities like this are available for use by the wider community and I know from talking to the local clubs that it will be very popular.
These facilities are for all of us. Later this year, the IRFU will transfer their elite training programmes to the Campus using this Arena and the outdoor pitches currently under development.
This will provide rugby training facilities better than anything to be found across Europe.
I hope it will lead us to further success.
An increasing number of athletes are also using this facility, from swimmers and boxers to gymnasts and modern pentathletes.
So this will become a very busy venue in a short space of time and I hope that it will contribute to continued success for Irish sport in the coming years.
Finally, I want to say that it is my honour to officially open Phase 2 of the National Indoor Arena.