Minister Mary Wallace closes the 2008 HSE Community Games Finals on Sunday 24th August

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here today in my capacity as Minister with responsibility for Health Promotion to close the 2008 HSE Community Games Finals.

Since 1968 the Community Games have been providing opportunities for children and young people to grow and develop in a positive and healthy way. In 2009 the National Finals of the Community Games will move to state-of-the-art sports facilities at Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT). The move marks the end of a thirty-five year relationship with Mosney, where over 8,000 children from all over the country have competed annually in the Games. The HSE sponsor the Community Games and the aim is to create a healthy environment, one that promotes the health of visitors, fans, players, employees and the local community – a place where people will have a positive healthy experience playing or watching community games activities.

The Irish Sports Council also support and sponsor the games. Many famous Irish personalities have competed in the games over the years including Sonia O’Sullivan, Niall Quinn and Colin Farrell.

The Community Games have been responsible for introducing thousands of children to sport, and promoting health on a local and national basis The Games provide opportunities for young people to participate in physical, social and cultural activities. Through the Games young people can make new friends from all parts of Ireland. They can experience new and exciting activities.

Children love being involved in the games, and it is great for building self-esteem and confidence. There is a great range of activities from dancing to draughts to discus. There is something to appeal to every child. HSE Community Games caters for children from age 6 to 16 allowing them to participate in over 34 team events and numerous individual evens which also include cultural activities.

From a community perspective, the Games are key in bringing people together with a common interest and goal. This helps promote community spirit. The pressures of modern life can make it hard to get to know your neighbours but friendships and supportive relationships are necessary. They help us all through life. Getting involved in the Games is a great way for the family to do something together. It is also great to see that many children and families who have moved to Ireland have joined in and are participating in the Games.

The Community Games are active in many communities in all parts of Ireland. The Games can help the HSE to reach out to these communities and spread healthy messages to the thousands of people involved with these games in these communities.

In recent years, an effort has been made to offer more healthy food options for volunteers and participants. We want to make the healthier choice the easier choice. Physical activity is important to keep the mind healthy. The HSE Community Games provides these opportunities for young people. In fact, we can all be healthier in body and mind by being a little more active. It has long-term benefits too as it can protect us from illnesses such as heart disease and stroke.

I would like to thank all the participants, the organisers, the volunteers and the parents for contributing to this fantastic event. It is wonderful to see that the Community Games, which began so many years ago, are continuing to have such an important and beneficial role in the lives of young people. I am confident that for many years to come the Community Games will continue to engage children in what hopefully becomes a lifetime commitment to physical activity.

I am delighted to have been invited to close these successful games this year and I wish you all a safe, healthy and active year ahead, until we meet again.