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Speech by the
Taoiseach, Mr. Enda Kenny, T.D.,
Occasion of the naming and Commissioning
of the New naval Offshore Patrol Vessel L É Samuel Beckett
on Saturday 17th May 2014
Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Secretary General of the Department of Defence, Chief of Staff, Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service, representatives of Babcock Marine from Rosyth, London and Appledore, Deputy Lord Major, Parliamentary colleagues, Reverend Father, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen –
I’m delighted to join you for the naming and commissioning ceremonies of this ship the LÉ Samuel Beckett.
In their long, evening perambulations along the Seine somehow I doubt if Samuel Beckett or James Joyce imagined they would in a century give their names to naval vessels of their home country.
In time we will welcome the LÉ James Joyce but today beside his eponymous bridge we are privileged and proud to honour Dubliner, Samuel Beckett.
As we do I want to welcome and warmly his niece Mrs Murphy.
Caroline your kindness and interest have been invaluable in bringing us to this ceremony today.
On behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland thank you.
I’m aware today that for someone who abhorred public attention as much as did Samuel Beckett
For him wherever he exists now there must a delicious irony in the public naming and commissioning of this vessel in his honour.
Yes he lived a life of immense privacy even seclusion.
But equally Samuel Beckett’s life was one of great warmth, insight, humour, generosity.
He was loyal, deeply loyal not alone to his friends but to the idea of human dignity our shared humanity.
And it is in honour of these qualities along with his work and imagination and genius that we give this vessel his name.
Of course, tremendous work has gone into the commissioning and building of the ship itself.
Today, I pay tribute to the many people who gave their time and talent to this vital project at every stage from design to build.
They are the men and women of the Department of Defence the Naval Service, Babcock Marine and of course, the many subcontractors.
In particular, I would like to commend the members of the Civil / Naval Service project team who have been engaged on this project for the last four years.
I want to thank too the people of Appledore for their excellent work in giving us a ship that is worthy of its name.
When the LÉ James Joyce arrives, they can say that their shipyard produced half the naval fleet of their neighbours across the water.
And here at home we put that fleet to national use.
Not alone in the day-to-day task of fishery protection according to national and EU legislation but in security and search-and-rescue, but in pollution monitoring and of course, research.
We, the Irish people are immensely proud of our naval service for the standards they keep and the way they do this important work in what is often a hostile marine environment.
And so, the Government is committed to ensuring that the future roles and capabilities of the Defence Forces are mapped out for the next decade in keeping with a sustainable Defence policy.
We’re looking at that role of the Army, Air Corps and naval service in the context of the new White Paper on Defence.
The work is already at advanced stage and should be finalised by the end of the year. We hope it will have an equally positive impact in terms of reform as did its precursor from the year 2000. The strong response to the Green Paper public-consultation phase suggests that it will.
Of course, Ireland’s marine resources have a major impact and role in our national economy.
Ireland’s marine exclusive economic zone extends around 220 million acres.
It’s a major national asset supporting seafood, tourism, oil and gas, marine renewable energy, and now new developments and applications in health, medicine and technology.
And good as that is we are determined that we can and must do better.
The average GDP and jobs from ocean economies in Europe is between three and five per cent.
In 2007, Ireland’s figures were around 1% in both, 1.2% of GDP from its ocean economy, and supporting 1% of the total workforce.
We’re working to more than double our ocean GDP to 2.4% by 2030.
We plan to have Ireland exceeding €6.4 billion a year in turnover from our maritime sectors by 2020.
When I launched our National Integrated Marine Plan – Harnessing our Ocean Wealth in 2012, I said that I want to see us setting out to secure for ourselves and our children the social, cultural and economic benefits that our marine assets can deliver.
We must do that while protecting those marine assets and the LÉ Samuel Beckett and LÉ James Joyce will play a vital role in that endeavour.
Currently, the Naval Service has a flotilla of eight ships patrolling our maritime economic zone on a 365, 24/7 basis.
I’m delighted to note that in terms of patrol outputs, the Naval Service ships have outperformed international norms and are used as a yardstick by other navies.
They’re showing high standards, excellent performance and outcomes.
All of which are to be seen in the work of the captain and crew of the LÉ Samuel Beckett.
I want to wish Commander Kenneth Minehane and his crew every luck and success. I know that they are all looking forward to working the ship to its full potential.
I wish you fair winds and good sailing on the LÉ Samuel Beckett.
In conclusion, I want to say a warm thank you to everyone involved in making today’s occasion such a success. In particular the Army Number One band and their conductor Captain Fergal Carroll.
I know the Haulbowline Theatre Group will be performing a Samuel Beckett vignette for us today and I’m looking forward to it.
And before the vessel is named I want to remember Samuel Beckett not just the literary and dramatic genius but the uncompromising man whose insight into life and his decisions in how to live it are so instructive for us today and always.
In 1969, within a week of having become Nobel Laureate, he had given most of the prizemoney away.
In naming a naval vessel in his honor it is apt that two of the greatest honours he received were not literary but for his bravery his faith in humanity.
After the Second World War he received the Croix de Guerre and the Medaille de la Resistance for his work with the French Resistance in Paris and Roussillon.
The British Intelligence described him as “ Age 38. Six feet. Well built but stoops. Dark hair. Fresh complexion. Very silent. Paris agent.”
Michael Colgan tells the story that when that same ‘very silent’ Samuel Beckett was challenged once as to why he gave away a lot of money to a beggar who was probably a con-artist he replied “I thought he was but I just couldn’t take the chance”.
I believe that as a nation we could not take the chance of ignoring Samuel Beckett and James Joyce as names and men to be honoured in these vessels.
Across oceans generations they define us they distinguish us they declare us as a nation.
I now invite Mrs Murphy to name this vessel in honour of her uncle our countryman Samuel Beckett.
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