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Launch of Forum on ‘A National Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy.’

5th April 2011 - Enda Kenny

I am delighted to be here with you to officially launch this forum on ‘A National Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy.’ I would like to thank Ann Horan, Chief Executive of the DCU Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship, for her kind invitation. I also want to thank today’s Chairman, Dr Chris Horn, for his introduction.

As co-founder of Iona Technologies, Chris is a role model for the kind of entrepreneurial spirit we are looking to engender in our young people. He is also someone who constantly gives back to the country – through his continued engagement in public life and in shaping public policy.

As we are all too aware, these are very difficult times for our nation and our economy. The new government I lead now is now 37 days old. With a resounding mandate from the people, we have pledged to get Ireland’s deficit back in line by 2015. And we will.

To do this, we are implementing strategies to generate growth in our economy, restore confidence, get money moving and most importantly, get Ireland working again. And in these 37 days, my government has confronted a banking crisis of unprecedented magnitude head on and introduced a radical plan to restructure the banking system.

We have also initiated a radical overhaul of public spending in Ireland and, as part of that, to undertake a Comprehensive Spending Review of all public expenditure. We have to re-design some of our services and structures to meet the challenges of a new world.

Next month, the Minister for Finance will introduce a Jobs Initiative to include a package of measures aimed at reducing costs to business, supporting entrepreneurs, and protecting and creating jobs… Job creation is central to our recovery strategy.

The Government will be making a real effort to bring down business costs, reduce the red tape burden on small business and completely overhaul our antiquated bankruptcy laws… These barriers hold back innovative small business and make it harder for new business to break into new markets.

I remember hearing Chris speak a couple of years ago he said the Celtic Tiger was dead…but from its ashes would rise a Celtic Phoenix… and that is why I am keen to support this Forum this morning. Recessions can create new international business giants from nothing. Indeed, there has never been a greater need for creativity, innovation and enterprise in our country than at present. And why I welcome all ideas to promote a spirit of enterprise and innovation amongst young people.

The business leaders and entrepreneurs of tomorrow are the young pupils in our classrooms today. They will all shape our future so we must do our best to shape their education today. This Government’s ambition is to build a knowledge society and an innovative society. Education is at the heart of a more cohesive, more equal and more successful society, and it will be the engine of sustainable economic growth.

Ireland has experienced a decline in educational outcomes in recent years. We will draw from top performing education models like Finland to reverse this trend. Even in our country’s crisis, we can make progress in education and protect frontline services.

As adults, we must create a culture of encouragement, support, guidance and suitable training for all our young people. We must support a closer collaboration in enterprise promotion within our education system. At primary level, a revised curriculum encourages the development of higher order thinking and problem solving.

In creating 21st century schools, for example, this government is also committed to the greater use of online platforms offering a range of subjects and lessons, and to enable schools to ‘share’ teachers via live web casts. Other primary level initiatives include Junior Achievement, the Junior Inventor Award and the Discover Science Excellence award schemes for schools. Of course, enterprise features as an important part of the Business syllabus studied by 35% of all Leaving Certificate students too.

There are also a number of Young Enterprise competitions such as the Mini Company “Get Up And Go” programme, the new Sean Lemass Commemorative Award, as well as the Students’ Enterprise Awards, which was the largest competition in any area of the school system in 2010. It is these young people who are the next Facebook, Twitter and Apple creators of tomorrow. Of course we need to do more.

This Government will build a new Enterprise Economy. A place where we value, support and encourage the role of the entrepreneur. It will not be an easy transition but we are committed to removing barriers to innovation and to accelerating the exploitation of new technologies. The Enterprise Economy will require a new generation of creative people, with innovative ideas to capture new markets.

I look forward to hearing about the ideas which come out of this Forum today.

As I conclude, I would like to emphasize that today’s event can not only influence the future generations and inheritors of this country, but also benefit our economic recovery.

I finish with a quote from a poem by Roy L. Sharpe who wrote the following:

‘Each is given a bag of tools, / A shapeless mass, / A book of rules, / And each must make – / Ere life has flown – / A stumbling block / Or a stepping stone.’

Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

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