News 2022

Title:  Chairpersons Address – 2022 AGM
Date:  06/05/2022

Overall, I believe that 2021 was a very positive year for Mountaineering Ireland even though our activities were once again impacted by the Covid pandemic.  While the level of activity on the mountains generally returned to normal in the latter part of the year, we still saw the cancellation of organised events right through 2021.  It is great, therefore, to see us return to at least a hybrid model for this AGM and we are very optimistic that we will meet in person at our autumn gathering later in the year.

2021 was a very special year for Mountaineering Ireland as it marked 50 years since its formation as the Federation of Mountaineering Clubs of Ireland (FMCI) in 1971.  While Covid prevented us from celebrating in the way we would have liked, a special edition of the Irish Mountain log was published to celebrate our 50th anniversary.  This includes some really interesting contributions from members and staff, who have been involved in various capacities with the organisation over the 50 years.  A very special thanks is due to all involved.

I am pleased to see that membership numbers during 2021 returned to 2019 levels.  We are hopeful that this marks the resumption of the steady membership growth, which we had been seeing over the years up to 2020 when restricted club activity impacted on our membership.  It is a pleasure also to welcome the new clubs, which affiliated to Mountaineering Ireland during 2021.

A key task for the organisation during 2021 was the development of the 2022 – 2025 strategic plan. This involved widespread consultation with members, staff and other stakeholders and we are confident that this plan will serve our members and grow our organisation into the future.  The plan sets out clearly our ambition that Mountaineering Ireland is the ‘go-to’ organisation for all hillwalkers, climbers and mountaineers on the island of Ireland.  The plan was launched last week and will soon be available on the website.  I would encourage all our members to take some time to have a look at it.

Sport climbing made its debut as an Olympic sport in Tokyo in 2021.  I believe this is a really important development for our sport and that it bodes well for future investment.  It also raises the profile of climbing, which we hope will lead to greater participation.  As an organisation we have included in our 2022 – 2025 strategy specific objectives focusing on high performance and the development pipeline.  I would like to note at this point the commitment of our national coach and the support received from the parents of our young competitors.

During 2020, Mountaineering Ireland played a very active role in the development of the National Outdoor Recreation Strategy.  This stakeholder led strategy aims to guide and facilitate the sustainable development and management of outdoor recreation.  I believe our participation in this important project gives use a real opportunity to influence the management of our mountain areas going forward.  The Department of Rural and Community Development has recently launched the draft strategy for consultation, and I would encourage you to have a look at this.

With the support of funding from Sport Ireland, a series of training events for club leaders were run during the year.  These were intended to upskill and support clubs in their return to the mountains after the pandemic.  I am pleased to note these were very well supported and that the feedback from clubs on these events was very positive. 

During the period of the pandemic, we saw many people coming new to the Irish mountains.  While this increased interest in our sport is very much to be welcomed, it comes with both challenges and opportunities.  Some of these newcomers, for example, were poorly equipped and skilled and our challenge will be to continue to promote safety on the mountains and to protect our precious mountain environment.  In this regard I would like to complement the “Happy Hiking” initiative led by our hillwalking committee.  This increased interest of course also brings many opportunities including to grow our membership, to further develop our clubs and to make the case for increased funding. 

I am particularly pleased to note that “Irish Peaks” won the 2021 Guidebook Award in the prestigious Banff Mountain Book Competition.  The production of this book was a real Mountaineering Ireland community effort with members the length and breadth of the island contributing routes and wonderful photographs.  The book, I believe, is not only a celebration of our mountains but also represents the very best of our organisation.

Finally, I would like to thank the staff team, my Board colleagues and the volunteers across all of our committees and clubs for your commitment and dedication throughout the year.

 

David Pollard

Chairperson, Board of Directors

Mountaineering Ireland

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