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Speech by the Minister for Defence Mr Willie O’Dea, T.D.
At the Launch of “Cuirrech Life – the Curragh of Kildare”

Defence Forces Training Centre – The Curragh

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased to be here tonight to launch this important publication concerning the Curragh.

The Curragh of Kildare is a completely unique landscape in terms of its archaeological, environmental, historical and cultural heritage. It is of both national and international importance.

Down the centuries, the Curragh has been synonymous with military training, horse training, racing and the grazing of sheep. For years it has provided a suitable location for all three of these uses in equal measure.

The excellent military training given here at the Curragh has enabled the Defence Forces to undertake their many challenging roles, most notably on United Nations duties, with confidence and professionalism.

The horseracing industry continues to make a major contribution to the Irish economy and has raised the profile of Ireland and all things Irish on the world stage.

The grazing of sheep, under rights of common of pasture plays a major role in supporting the local farming community as well as maintaining the ecological balance of this unique grassland.

In addition, the Curragh is also an invaluable recreational facility for the public. As such, the Curragh requires careful and responsible management to ensure its conservation and sustainable use for future generations. This very valuable study will be of great assistance in informing decisions regarding the best management approach for the Curragh for the future.

Dr. John Feehan, who is attached to the School of Biology and Environmental Science at UCD, is to be commended for this great scholarly work. Dr. Feehan’s interest in the Curragh goes back a long time and my Department has benefited on many occasions from his expertise - so willingly given.

This publication will serve as a valuable instrument in raising awareness of the uniqueness of the Curragh. In it we are reminded of the Curragh’s physical formation, how it got its name, the development of the grassland, its flora and, in particular, its species-diverse and magnificent waxcaps - which is, by far, the richest assemblage of waxcaps in the whole of Ireland.

As the book progresses, we learn of the legends, traditions, legislation, military history and sporting activities associated with this landscape. We read of its mythical associations with St. Brighid and the Fianna. This publication is a superb repository of information on the Curragh and will inspire in the people of Kildare and in the wider community a greater awareness, understanding and appreciation of the Curragh.

I am pleased to have been able to support Dr. John Feehan, and his team in the production of this outstanding publication. I wish also to acknowledge the input of the members of the Defence Forces and also members of the Property Management Branch of my Department who contributed to this work.

Finally, I wish to congratulate the author, an eminent interpreter of landscape and its associated features, for his initiative and expertise in producing this informative and timely study, which allows us to appreciate and understand the unique landscape that is the Curragh of Kildare.

I would now like to call on Dr. Feehan to say a few words.

Thank you.

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21 November 2007
Speech by the Minister for Defence Mr Willie O’Dea, T.D. At the Launch of “Cuirrech Life – the Curragh of Kildare”

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