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Speech by the Taoiseach, Mr. Enda Kenny, T.D., at the Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between GMIT, IT Sligo and Letterkenny IT at GMIT on 9th July 2012

Good afternoon.

The GMIT, IT Sligo and LetterKenny IT play a very significant role in Connacht and Ulster regions. I am delighted to be here to witness the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding cementing the Connacht-Ulster Alliance between these three higher education institutions. I would like to thank the three Chairpersons and Presidents for their kind invitation and hospitable welcome.

I am always very pleased to contribute in any way that I can to this type of collaborative alliance. In today’s challenging climate, it is more important than ever that a spirit of co-operation and innovation prevails throughout our country’s institutions. When I see leaders in education and elsewhere finding new ways of doing new things even in such difficult times, I know that Ireland’s future is secure.

I do not think it is going too far to say that this type of innovative collaboration is a microcosm of all we are trying to achieve in a modern higher education system. The building of such partnerships is the key to the delivery of many of the most important objectives of the National Strategy for Higher Education.

I cannot overstate the importance of the benefits that institutes of technology have brought to their communities. The original thinking behind the development of the technological sector was visionary in its time. It was based on what were then new levels of ambition for Ireland, its economy and its people.

Even though the origins of higher education in Ireland go back more than 400 years, the rate of acceleration of the development and impact of the sector in the last forty years has been remarkable. This is due in no small part to the influence of our institutes of technology. That pace of change will continue in the years ahead.

I’m revisiting this history very briefly just to underline the point that today’s event is a milestone in a much wider continuing evolution. The Irish higher education system has never stood still and cannot afford to do so now as we face into the new challenges of the decades ahead.

The strength of the technology sector lies in its agile response to the needs of the region. And I know that this alliance will reflect the needs of students, enterprise and the wider community in the Connacht-Ulster region that I am proud to call home.

I am especially pleased to see that the alliance intends to form a regional cluster with other higher education and further education providers in the region. Offering coherent pathways into and between education institutions at different levels as well as innovative online opportunities will transform educational opportunities for the dispersed communities that you serve.

This partnership will allow networks to be built between individual institutions through shared undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. It will facilitate the greater connection across borders to raise Ireland’s international profile. Collaboration on this scale will allow us to leverage the strengths of individual institutions to create new and exciting opportunities for national and international students.

As a small country, we need to pool all our reserves and resources if we are to continue to punch above our weight on the international stage. It is true to say that we live in a massively interconnected and internationalised world, where ideas and knowledge have no respect for national borders.

The Connacht-Ulster alliance will make a real contribution to this national effort. Closer collaboration will allow the three institutions to build on their existing strengths, and to develop their complementary offerings, to develop a scale and reach which would not have been possible on their own.

The added value created through the synergy realised from this alliance will help to transform these three institutions. There is an African Proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. I foresee that this partnership will go far and wish all of you involved in its future every success.