Hope for the future was very much the theme at a couple of events in Meath during the past week.
In a national context, they did not receive much in the way of media coverage but, against the more hopeful backdrop of a little more stability returning to the eurozone following the general election in Greece, they gave an insight into how the most powerful country in Europe views us and how we can help ourselves to improve our county and communities in an economic sense.
The German Ambassador to Ireland, Dr Eckhard Lubkemeier, speaking in Kells last Thursday at the launch of a new tourism brochure translated into the German language, reached out to his Irish audience. Undoubtedly conscious of how Germany is often portrayed in this country as an inflexible iron-fisted matriarch, he told them he was convinced "we will overcome this crisis together". Amidst all the doom and gloom, he went on, we should not forget that, in the history of Ireland and the history of Europe, people have had to cope with much greater trials and daunting challenges than we are faced with today.
Dr Lubkemeier went on to day: "Our union of European peoples has been a uniquely successful way of banishing the spectres of the past once and for all and of ensuring peace, prosperity and human dignity. If we keep this in mind - and as the German ambassador, let me assure you that we Germans will continue to keep this in mind - we are all in this together and that we must all act for it together, there is every chance that we will succeed and prosper together."
That theme of hope for the future was touched upon by the Minister for Enterprise Jobs and Innovation, Richard Bruton, at the launch of the new South-East Meath Chamber of Commerce last week when he said the Irish people were a proud race who thrive in adversity through harnessing all the strengths of a community.
The new Chamber has produced two impressive brochures which have been described as an attempt to provide hope to the 50,000 Meath people who live in the area stretching from Dunshaughlin southwards towards Dunboyne and Clonee, and to the east as far as the coast, and incorporating the towns of Ashbourne, Ratoath and Dunboyne.
The concept for the group came about when a group of people gathered one night to asked the question: "Why is the IDA not bringing jobs to this area? Why are so many of our young people having to emigrate? What can we do to change that?"
This part of Meath is especially close to Dublin city, has good infrastructure, business parks and excellent residential facilities. What it has lacked is jobs, with a majority of locals commuting to Dublin for work. The group decided to document the region's strengths and attractions for inward investment and the result has been two brochures on 'Ireland's international business location', the South-East Meath Economic Corridor.
With a brief to promote and assist enterprise in the area, this project is an impressive effort which stresses the positives in this heavily populated part of Meath, highlighting transport infrastructre, proximity to Dublin Airport and Dublin Port, an educated workforce, next generation broadband and a well-established business community which is willing to work together to develop synergies and ensure the promotion of the area.
Meath is one of the most accessible counties in Ireland, with the amenities of the capital city on its doorstep. There are many potential opportunities to create business, especially at a time when there is a realisation that we need to look to ourselves more and more to create those opportunities. Challenging times often bring out the best in the Irish - that is why our soccer fans were the talk of Europe last week even as their team was crashing out of Euro 2012 in ignominious fashion - and we do work hard to overcome our difficulties when the chips are down.
Despite the daily bombardment of negative economic stories, it can sometimes be difficult to find much to give rise to optimism about our future. But there are reasons to be hopeful. We still have a strong export sector, foreign direct investment has been continuing, falling costs have helped restore a measure of competitiveness and the country's unemployment level seems to have stabilised at just over 14 per cent. What we need more than anything now is a measure of growth.
Once we start believing in ourselves once again, we can face the future with confidence and begin to rebuild the Ireland we would like our children to live in.
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