Minister Launches www.volunteer.ie
Speech by Noel Ahern TD, at the International Volunteer Day event
hosted by Volunteer Centres Ireland
Tuesday 5th December 2006
I am very pleased to be here with you to celebrate International Volunteer Day, a day, which offers an opportunity for voluntary organisations and individual volunteers to make visible their contributions at local, national and international levels. I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Yvonne McKenna and her team in Volunteer Centres Ireland for inviting me to attend.
Volunteers have a sense of social concern, shared values, a pride in their place and their country. In Ireland, we have numerous examples of our traditional 'neighbourliness' and of our considerable generosity to others in times of need. Volunteers have made a significant difference in the lives of others through our involvement in, for example, the Special Olympics and through our response following international disasters such as the Tsunami in Asia or famine relief in various parts of the world.
The Irish tradition of co-operation and the “meitheal” remains alive and well. Volunteers are the people who in many instances work in the background and help to keep organisations, projects and events both home and abroad afloat. Without their selfless contribution of time and energy, much of what we take for granted in terms of our society would not happen.
While there is some evidence that numbers of people volunteering fell in the late 1990’s, largely due to our improved economic wellbeing and the increasing demands of the workplace, the evidence today indicates that there remains a healthy commitment to volunteering which is often untapped.
Through the work of Volunteer Centres and VCI, we are finding that people are often just waiting for the opportunity to come forward and volunteer. Through local offices and websites, Volunteer Centres are linking potential volunteers with a diverse range of organisations and provide a role for the diverse range of skills and talents each person brings within their community.
In every community there are people doing extraordinary things. What they have in common is not just dedication or inspiration or creativity or sheer hard work. It is that they give to others the thing that is most precious to all of us... Time.
We have all given money to charity, contributed to collections, bought the tickets, and sponsored the participants, yet in many ways it can be far more rewarding to give of our time. And for the things that concern us we can make time.
Voluntary activity is a very important component of a healthy and caring democratic society. Without active volunteers, communities cannot flourish. Events like today’s are therefore important in highlighting the voluntary effort from communities and reinforcing the message that ‘your community needs you’.
As the Minister with responsibility for volunteering I am very aware of the huge level of work that is carried out by community and voluntary groups throughout the country. The development of volunteering infrastructure is central to my Department’s strategy and my Department funds many initiatives which promote, encourage and support volunteers. In that regard, our new Social Partnership Agreement includes a commitment by Government to provide an additional €5 million per annum to support volunteering. Only last week a further €224,000 was allocated to projects to promote volunteering under my Department’s local and community development cohesion fund. The total provided this year under this measure amounts to €300,600.
Last May, the Taoiseach launched the Task Force on Active
Citizenship, with citizen participation and engagement as key areas to
be examined by the Task Force.
The Community and Voluntary sector currently provides over €2 billion worth of services on a not-for-profit basis to Irish society. These services include social care, childcare, eldercare, health services, education, environmental, cultural, artistic, sporting and numerous other activities.
Everyone here is aware that without volunteers, these activities
which are so essential to a healthy and vibrant society would simply
It is for this reason that the recognition of the role played by volunteers is crucially important.
Thank you again for the invitation to speak on International Volunteer Day. I wish you all the very best of success in your new premises and I congratulate you on the resource for volunteering which your new website www.volunteer.ie provides.