Taoiseach, Tanaiste, Ministers, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen – Good afternoon.
You are all very welcome to County Sligo, here in the beautiful North-West.
Ireland has certainly come a long way over the past few years.
We have emerged from the difficult and demoralising period of recession.
Unemployment has fallen from over 15% to 6%.
And we now have the fastest growing economy in Europe.
Our country can once again look to the future with confidence.
Project Ireland 2040, which the Government is launching today, sets out the vision for that future.
It is a strategic long term plan for a country that we want to live in, raise a family in and grow old in.
In formulating this plan, the Government made a conscious decision that we could not, and we would not replicate the mistakes of the past.
This plan is not about one for everybody in the audience.
It is about putting in place a realistic and achievable framework to ensure we will have the infrastructure to cater for the extra one million people who will live in Ireland by 2040.
It is about ensuring we have the right environment so we can create the extra 660,000 jobs needed to meet that increase in population.
And crucially, for the first time, we have a coordinated approach which means we have a National Planning Framework which is backed up by the money necessary to deliver it.
The Government will invest 116 Billion, that is 116 Thousand Million Euro, over the next ten years.
As Ireland strives forward in the years ahead, we want to ensure that no-one is left behind.
And as somebody who comes from Aghabog, nestled away in the most rural part of the drumlins of County Monaghan, I am particularly proud to stand here today with confidence and say:
This is a plan which delivers for the border region and for rural Ireland.
I understand today is the first time a Cabinet meeting has ever taken place at an Institute of Technology.
And it is the young people of this country, like the students here in Sligo, who will imagine, explore, innovate, and create the new ideas and technologies that many of us can only dream of.
We are living in a rapidly changing world that is moving at a phenomenal pace.
The Government wants Ireland to be a global leader in that change.
That is why, through my Department, I will launch a new €500million Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund to ensure we stay at the forefront in exciting new areas such as Artificial Intelligence, advanced manufacturing and the bio-economy.
And through our ITs, here in Sligo and right across the country, we will put in place Technology and Innovation Poles, that will enable our institutes partner with enterprise to develop strategic agendas for their regions, supporting SMEs, entrepreneurship and start-ups.
Project Ireland 2040 gives people right across the country, whether living in remote rural areas, villages, towns or cities - opportunity.
Opportunity to maximise their potential.
Through this plan, communities whether in rural or urban settings now have the platform to build on their own unique strengths and be part of a dynamic and exciting modern Ireland.