During these days when the COVID-19 virus overshadows our thoughts, it is particularly important not to forget milestones, and people, that have brought us to where we are.
This day 20 years ago was a momentous day in the history of the management of the inland navigable waterways in Ireland, when 235 staff were designated and transferred, thus creating the organisation known as Waterways Ireland. Whilst Waterways Ireland was established as a North-South Implementation Body, under the British-Irish Agreement Act, 1999, it effectively became operational, with its own structure, on this day 20 years ago.
The Blasket island author, Muriis Ó Suilleabháin, wrote a memoir of Island Life in the 1920's and 30's on the Blaskets entitled Fiche Bliain ag Fás. This title was taken from an old proverb "Fiche bliain ag fás; Fiche bliain faoi bhláth agus Fiche bliain ag meath" - Twenty years growing, twenty years blooming and twenty years in decline.
We, due to the hard work of all our staff, and in partnership with many other public, private, community and voluntary sector bodies, and individuals, have certainly grown over the past 20 years and helped maintain and enhance the navigations for which we have responsibility. We have developed the infrastructure, opening up locations as key tourism destinations, adding value to local and national economies. We have facilitated the opportunity for locals to get out on, and along, the waterways, providing recreational opportunities, improving their health and well-being and giving all the ability to experience new ways to enjoy the local environment.
This has been done whilst having the greatest respect and care for the wonderful heritage and environment, on and along the waterways. We thank our staff for their hard work and commitment over the past 20 years in preserving and enhancing some of the island's greatest treasures, and we especially remember our former colleagues who are no longer with us. We also thank our Sponsor Departments and partners for their collaboration in all that we do.
We recognise that in the current climate when we all battle to look after ourselves, our families, our communities and indeed our nation, that looking beyond next week or next month may be difficult. We will however spend the next 20 years "blooming" with the same effort as has been shown in the past, maintaining and enhancing our waterways so that they continue to be assets of national pride in the future.
Thank you to all who have played their part in the past 20 years, and we look forward with pride to the future.