Speech by Minister Tim O’Malley for the prize giving ceremony of the Irish Countrywomen’s Association Recipe Competition

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am delighted to be with you today to celebrate the twelfth anniversary of the Health Promotion Unit’s ICA Healthy Eating Recipe competition and to mark the occasion with the presentation of prizes.

The Competition

At a time when around 50% of Irish people are overweight and one in eight is obese, initiatives such as this recipe competition have a vital role to play and we were delighted with the ICA’s response which demonstrates that healthy meals can be appetising, tasty and convenient to prepare. We are grateful for your ongoing support for the healthy eating message as we rely on influential groups, such as yourselves, in helping us create awareness of healthy eating messages, specifically, the importance of increasing our consumption of fruit and vegetables to five portions per day and in helping to facilitate behaviour change through developing and cooking healthy eating dishes

This year you were given the task of devising a High Fruit or Vegetable dinner for a family of four, on a budget of just €16. Special attention had to be given to cooking methods, convenience, taste and, of course, the inclusion of fruit and vegetables was a key factor when deciding on our finalists.

Campaign to Tackle Obesity

The Government has been proactively responding to the increase in overweight and obesity and we have initiated a number of programmes including the 2005 public information campaign, ‘Take 5 Steps … to a healthier you’.

This campaign was rolled out nationally by the Health Promotion Unit and locally by the Health Service Executive. The campaign incorporated practical initiatives, educational materials, research, resources for schools and a media programme. It also highlighted the combined importance of physical activity and healthy eating as we know that neither of these components can be dealt with in isolation.

The aim of this countrywide campaign is not only to generate greater levels of awareness for this major health issue but to demonstrate, through practical means, ways to avoid becoming overweight and obese. My Department also hopes to communicate ways in which people can lose weight, permanently, and education and information are fundamental to the campaign, enabling people to make healthier lifestyle choices.

Obesity is a complex condition that affects and threatens to overwhelm virtually all ages and socio-economic groups. Recent trends highlight a steady increase in the numbers of obese people and the problem is becoming more prevalent in younger people. The trends from the second SLÁN survey on people’s lifestyles show that as a nation we are becoming progressively heavier – witnessed by the 30% increase in reported obesity levels over a four year period.

Increases in obesity over the past 30 years have been paralleled by a dramatic rise in the prevalence of diabetes. Globally, around 85% of people with diabetes have been classified with type 2 diabetes and, of these, 90% are overweight or obese.

Although obesity should be considered a condition in its own right, it is also one of the key risk factors for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease; together with smoking, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. Other physical problems related to obesity include, back ailments and breathing difficulties.

As a priority, therefore, we need to address the trend and scale of overweight and obesity in Irish children. To do that, we need to look at the eating and activity habits of children and their main influences. We need to support and make it easier for children to eat healthy foods and be more active. This is where competition’s such as this and the influence of parents and grandparents can be so important.

I also want to mention a new ICA initiative which the Health Promotion Unit of my Department is supporting. Your last President had the wonderful idea of the ICA nationally facilitating your members to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, through each Guild having a healthy eating / be active coordinator. A ‘think tank’ meeting to discuss how best to go about this will be the first step – for example, looking at skills training for coordinators to help them support and motivate members. This very exciting initiative will help mothers and their families eat healthier and be more active helping to prevent and halt the rising levels obesity both now and in the future.


We have had a wonderful response to this competition and before making the winning presentations, I would like to thank a number of people who have ensured the success of today’s event.

Firstly, many thanks to the hundreds of ICA members who participated in this year’s competition. Once again a tough decision had to be made by the judges in selecting the overall winners and each year, the standard just gets higher and higher.

Congratulations to the finalists who, with great imagination and flair, have devised recipes, which can be tried by all and which can be incorporated into a healthy, daily eating plan.

Particular thanks to the President of the ICA, Anne Murray, the Contest Federation Secretary, Anna Byrne, and the Working Committee for their input into this competition.

Your support is a key factor in ensuring the success of this competition.