Minister John Gormley, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, gave the opening address at the annual conference of the Irish Organisation for Geographical Information (IRLOGI) held in Dublin on 17 October 2007. Minister Gormley is the leader of the Irish Green Party. His Department is responsible for INSPIRE and Irish Spatial Data Infrastructure matters.
(Pictured, left to right: Eamonn Doyle, IRLOGI President, Minister Gormley, Bruce McCormack, Convenor of the EUROGI International Affairs Working and Advisory Group).Minister Gormley congratulated IRLOGI on various recent initiatives. He also mentioned IRLOGIâs membership of EUROGI and spoke positively about the leading role which EUROGI is playing in exploring how best Europe can work in cooperation with developing countries in the GI and SDI fields. He stated âApparently just last week in Brussels EUROGI played a key role in drawing together representatives from US, Japan, the United Nations, European Commission and African countries in a workshop. I am informed that EUROGI will play a key coordinating role in producing documents dealing with the role of GI in meeting the UNâs Millennium Development Goals. Through the European Commission these documents will go out to thousands of key decision-makers around the world. I must commend this broad and proactive outlook and wish you well in these endeavours.âThe Minister highlighted the importance of the INSPIRE Directive which became European law earlier this year. He indicated that the Directive would need to be incorporated into Irish law by May 2009.The Directive aims to provide the information infrastructure to ensure that a wide range of environmental information can be seamlessly integrated within a digital environment. The INSPIRE data will be used for environmental policy making and for monitoring the implementation of such policies. It will also make for a more informed public.He stated that he hoped that in Ireland we would not adopt a âdo only what is requiredâ approach toward implementing the Directive. Instead he believed that Ireland should adopt a proactive âopportunity seekingâ approach. He pointed out that although the Directive is focused on environmental issues, the information infrastructure which will be created could be most useful in many other fields as well, some examples being, enterprise development, crime prevention and education.His Department is also responsible for the Irish manifestation of INSPIRE which is called the Irish Spatial Data Infrastructure (ISDI). The Minister indicated that a draft ISDI Policy Framework had been prepared and was currently being discussed with various government departments.On behalf of his colleague Eamon Ryan TD, the Minister of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Minister Gormley announced the launch of a new initiative by Minister Ryanâs Department to make substantial amounts of geological and related data, as well as marine and seabed data available at not cost. This data can be found on the Departmentâs web site. In a press release on the subject Minister Ryan stated, âThe free dissemination of this data is intended to stimulate the economy within the environmental, exploration, construction, and geoscience sectors. It will also provide important data for planners in achieving sustainable and responsible development and assist in the planning of major infrastructure projects.âMinister Gormley also announced two new web sites established by his own Department. The one site provides spatially referenced information on all of the 130 000 monuments in the Record of Monuments and Places database. The second new web site provides detailed map locations and extents for various types of conservation areas (Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas, Natural Heritage Areas) and habitats. These data can be found at www.archaeology.ie and www.npws.ie.The Minister also indicated that by the end of the year the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) website would be fully spatially enable to the same standard as the archaeological and conservation areas sitesThe full copy of the Ministerâs speech can be found at the IRLOGI web site www.irlogi.ie.Shortly before the conference IRLOGIâs President Eamonn Doyle and its Vice President, Bruce McCormack had an opportunity to brief the Minister on various Geographical Information (GI) matters. They raised a number of issues including those related to INSPIRE, the current OECD investigation into benchmarking Ireland from a governance perspective, the cost of certain types of GI data and the need to require all infrastructure and other projects to provide GI as an integral part of the project. It is hoped that a further meeting will take place with the Minister to discuss these and other issues in more detail.
Author: Brue McCormack, EUROGI International Affairs WAG
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