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Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
I am delighted to be here with you today at the 42nd annual Showcase run by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland.
Showcase has grown throughout the years to become one of the largest international trade shows in Ireland, and one of the most important events for the Irish Design and Crafts sector. But it also has a wider significance as a platform where we can “showcase” the best that the sector has to offer the world. And we have so much to offer!
Our crafts are renowned for their high quality, and our population is rich with phenomenal talent. And what we have already achieved is extraordinary.
Last year’s Showcase generated more than €20 million in sales over the four days of the show alone. And since the event, I have no doubt that many of the relationships forged have developed and deepened, only adding to that figure. Showcase attracts thousands of buyers every year, and this year’s event builds on that success.
It is a testament to the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland, and all the exhibitors at Showcase, that so many buyers come back year after year.
To those buyers who are returning, I simply say: fáilte air ais, or welcome back!
I would also like to extend a warm welcome to those who are visiting Showcase for the first time, beginning what will hopefully be a fruitful and longstanding relationship with this event, and with Irish design as a whole.
Showcase will welcome visitors from over 20 countries in the next few days, ranging from the UK and Mainland Europe, to North America and the Far East.
In doing so, Showcase plays a key role in sustaining and developing Ireland’s craft and design sector. And this is already an immensely important sector, employing thousands of designers and makers across Ireland, in both rural and urban locations.
These jobs are skilled, creative and fulfilling. As Ireland moves towards full employment - an incredible achievement for our country given the global economy over the past decade - the emphasis must now be on high-quality, sustainable jobs that deliver real growth in the economy.
Design and crafts have long been an integral part of the Irish economy, and they will continue to be so into the future.
Showcase will see exhibits from more than 450 designers and makers. It also has many new elements.
‘MADE/Slow’ is a special presentation of fashion, textile and homeware products.
These products are manufactured by small producers using an innovative blend of new technology and traditional production methods.
Throughout the show, there are curated selections of the most interesting and innovative new products, including nominees for best product awards.
I look forward to seeing the best that Irish design and crafts have to offer.
Ireland has long been renowned in the field, and we must continue to capitalise on this strength - events like this help us to do just that.
From my previous role as Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, I understand the enrichment that can come from embracing our culture and heritage.
Cultural exchange is sharing that heritage and passion with the world.
In doing so, we will build sustainable, high-quality jobs, and diversify and strengthen our economy.
In my new role as Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I want to harness the tangible economic benefits that a design-led strategy can have for our economy.
This is why my Department, through its agency Enterprise Ireland, has put so much work into promoting the Showcase event through its international network of offices.
A number of this year’s exhibitors are Enterprise Ireland clients, who are already exporting into global markets and having great success in doing so.
Another key element in the success of this year’s show has been the stellar work undertaken by the Local Enterprise Offices.
Local Enterprise Offices work with a variety of local businesses across the country to help them start, promote and expand their activities.
One highlight of this year’s show is the Local Enterprise Showcase, which features unique products from more than 100 emerging Irish craft and design businesses, who have been supported and mentored by their Local Enterprise Office.
Aside from the excellent products on display, the Local Enterprise Showcase highlights Ireland's commitment to a joined-up, design-based agenda at a local and national level.
I am sure that exhibitors and buyers alike will have an enjoyable and rewarding time at Showcase.
And with that, I’m delighted to declare Showcase open.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh!