It is now over 25 years since I, as the first Minister for the Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, approved the issue of 11 licences for community radio stations. That was a great occasion, I remember, for those groups and individuals who had been pioneers in recognising the importance of communities being enabled to listen and speak to each other. I am delighted that community radio has gone from strength to strength in the time since those licences were first granted.
It is well over a century since Guglielmo Marconi developed the first apparatus for long-distance radio communication, yet today radio broadcasts remain one of the most popular and effective ways for exchanging information, but also in providing social interaction, and thus helping us promote the knowledge and values that are so necessary for cohesive, inclusive societies.
Our community radio stations offer us vital information about our lives together. Radio provides access to analysis of our communities and wider society, and constitutes a platform for a great, and welcome, diversity of opinions and views, and for the sharing of experiences.
Community radio is the human lifeblood that stands as reminder, too, that listeners are much more than passive consumers in mass communication. In towns and villages across the country, community radio plays such a positive role in all our communities nationwide, and, in particular, in helping to preserve local culture and traditions.
Community radio uniquely fosters a positive dialogue and practical solidarity, one that contributes to the advancement and betterment of our communities and our society, with its great capacity to bring people together.
Community radio helps to strengthen ties and build awareness of common values, challenges and a discussion of possible solutions to issues within our localities. Community radio is a vital part of the shared public space for people to meet and collaborate. It is a public good.
It is the promotion of, and consistency in applying these qualities that have brought more people back to radio, especially in our recent times of pandemic, and I welcome this wholeheartedly.
May I congratulate you, traoslaím libh, and thank you, for not just continuing, but excelling with insight and compassion during this difficult time. You served our society well with your important work.
By continuing to giving voice, and relaying information and opinion, to your listeners, you are empowering our citizens.
Radio promotes the understanding of both important, complex issues and their local significance, thus helping to develop the values that we require to foster an inclusive society.
By giving information and enabling diverse opinions, it enables active and participative citizenship. By informing with accountable fact and opinion, and thus valuing its listeners, radio helps in its own crucial way to build bridges of understanding in society.
So today, on National Community Radio Day 2021, let us celebrate the strength and beauty of the spoken word, and pay tribute to the valuable role that community radio has in entertaining and empowering all of our citizens.
Mo bhuíochas libh, is beir beannacht.