Tuesday, 3 February 2004

Questions (86)

Charlie O'Connor


215 Mr. O'Connor asked the Taoiseach the plans his Department has to promote Ireland's EU Presidency with the Irish public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2793/04]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

Explaining the role and work of the Irish Presidency to the public and the media is a major task for the Government and the Department of the Taoiseach. My Department plans to communicate Ireland's EU Presidency to the Irish public in many ways, which I will outline.

A Presidency press office has been set up in my Department to handle EU media queries from the national, provincial and international media. It operates from my Department and liaises on a daily basis with the Presidency spokespeople in the permanent representation in Brussels to ensure a co-ordinated approach in dealing with media queries. In conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs, a user-friendly and easily accessible website went live at the end of December 2003. The site contains all the relevant information connected with our Presidency and is updated on a daily basis with speeches, press releases and other details. The EU logo was launched in July 2003. It was chosen by school children nationwide. Over 80,000 pupils cast their votes on www.scoilnet.ie, of whom 73% voted for the logo that was finally selected.

My Department has undertaken an EU awareness campaign as part of its ongoing commitment to raising public awareness of our Presidency of the EU. For example, in the Dublin area some 100 buses have been given new graphics, using the theme of Europeans working together. Similar posters have been placed in DART stations. It is estimated that these posters have been seen by 70% of adults in the city.

The Government decided to bring the Presidency to the people to make Ireland's Presidency more accessible to the public at large. It decided to hold most of the informal ministerial meetings outside the capital. To complement this, a regional billboard campaign is running before each informal meeting for two weeks leading up to it, featuring well known local people from each area. Departmental press officers will liaise closely with the local media to provide press information regarding the meeting. We have distributed EU awareness posters to every primary and second level school in the country, over 4,000 schools in total. Every child in the country will be reached in this way. The posters are bilingual and are customised for the two different age groups.

A public information leaflet explaining Ireland's priorities for its EU Presidency has been prepared under the communicating Europe initiative. This leaflet briefly outlines the priorities of our six month Presidency in a simple and readable style. My Department is co-ordinating the distribution of the leaflet and 100,000 copies will be sent to Members of the Oireachtas, social partners, secondary schools, local authorities, citizens information centres, libraries and Departments. Ireland will host a welcome day for the ten countries that join the Union on 1 May. There will be a formal event in Dublin involving the heads of state or Government. Dublin will also host a major street party and concert. The major celebration events which will be held in Bray, Cork, Drogheda, Galway, Kilkenny, Killarney, Letterkenny, Limerick, Sligo and Waterford, the ten towns which have been twinned with the new member states, will be televised countrywide by RTE, the national public service broadcaster, and throughout Europe by the European Broadcasting Union.