Address by Ms. Kathleen Lynch T.D. Minister for Disability, Equality & Mental Health at the Launch of the 39th Irish Deaf Sports Association Interprovincial Championships

Ladies, gentlemen and distinguished guests.

I am delighted to be here today as Minister for Disability, Equality & Mental Health for the launch of the 39th Irish Deaf Sports Association (IDSA) Interprovincial Championships. This is one of my first official public engagements since I was appointed Minister and I would like to thank the IDSA for the kind invitation.

The IDSA Interprovincial Championships, which take place in the CIT over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, will see teams from Munster, Ulster, Connacht and Leinster compete in a range of sports including football and basketball. The footballers will compete with a view to being selected for the Irish squad for the upcoming 7th European Deaf Men’s Football Championships in Denmark in June.

These Championships play a key role in promoting social inclusion, supporting equality and improving the quality of life for young deaf people throughout Ireland. It is a chance for deaf athletes to come together, compete and connect with others in the community.

Sport and recreation play a hugely important role in our lives and never more so than in today’s hectic environment. Their value to the nation simply cannot be over-emphasised, in improving our health, in helping to give us a sense of ourselves and in boosting our morale. Sport has the potential to enrich the lives of all people and everyone can benefit from physical activity no matter what age.

Sport can play a major role in personal, community and general development. We want Irish people to have access to sporting opportunities, to develop a lifelong relationship with sport and to embrace the healthy lifestyle that goes with sporting activity. It is an inclusive philosophy, welcoming and valuing everyone in sport, irrespective of their ability or background.

Of course, physical activity can have important benefits not just for the individual but also for society. Sport can be promoted as an alternative to anti-social behaviour but more than that, it develops the personal skills of individuals. Values such as tolerance, self-discipline, team spirit and strength of character are demanded, practiced and promoted. In this way, sport serves as an indispensable educational tool, both in schools and colleges and in the wider community.

All of us working together in sport want to promote and protect the vibrant and diverse culture of sport in Ireland, while ensuring that opportunities for sport are provided in an environment that is both safe and encourages lifelong participation in sport. I would like to congratulate the Irish Deaf Sports Association for the invaluable work they have been doing to promote opportunities for Deaf and Hard of Hearing athletes for almost 43 years. The original pioneers showed great foresight all those years ago and it is wonderful to see such a well organised and energetic organisation today.

Finally, I would like to wish you all an enjoyable evening and best of luck to all who are taking part in the Championships.