Is léir go bhfuil an-éileamh ar an mBille seo. Cuireann sé i gcuimhne dúinn an-chuid daoine mór-le-rá i saol an spóirt atá caillte, ar nós Noel Carroll, a lua go leor daoine romhamsa, agus daoine eile a cailleadh tamall fada ó shin, ar nós Harry Reynolds, an rothaí ó mo bhaile féin, Baile Brigín, a bhí mar laoch an domhain ag tús an chéid. Is léir go bhfuil an éileamh i measc Teachtaí Dála don Bhille seo mar go raibh sé an-dheacair ormsa am labhartha a fháil. Bíodh sin mar atá, táim anseo anois agus ba mhaith liom daoine ar nós an rothaí Tess Carroll, Catherina McKiernan, Sonia O'Sullivan agus araoile a mholadh as ainm na hÉireann a chur in áirde. Caithfear na himreoirí sóisear sacair a bhuaigh an méid sin cluichí le tamall anuas a lua freisin. Tá saol spóirt na hÉireann ar bharr réime faoi láthair d'fhéadfá a rá. Ach ta go leor ceisteanna eile a bhaineann le gnáth-mhuintir na hÉireann, maidir le cúrsaí spóirt nach bhfuil chomh sásúil agus ba mhaith liom tagairt a dhéanamh do chuid acu sin anois.
Participation in sport is often talked about. However, in reality it often meets various obstacles. I hope the main thrust of the sports council will be to use participation as a yardstick in the way it measures success in sport. We are all agreed that we would want the broadest possible participation in sporting endeavour.
I congratulate the community games organisation, which has done so much to promote the participation by young people in sports. It has resulted in a number of our well known sportspeople coming to public attention. People like Niall Quinn, Sonia O'Sullivan and many others often speak very highly of the voluntary effort put in by adults to the community games in which they participated in their younger days.
As someone who trained to be a primary school teacher I can also vouch for the fact that many young people are first able to take up sport through primary schools. A great deal of voluntary effort has been made in this area also. Primary schools are also the first places where many children first encounter organised sport and it is important they have proper sporting facilities at their disposal. They should at least have play-ground facilities that meet their needs.
In looking for adequate playing facilities for young people, which may be termed the foundations of sporting involvement or the more recreational side of sport, I have found it very difficult to determine where responsibility lies among Departments for issues such as play facilities for children. In approaching the Department of Health and Children I am told the matter is covered by the Child Care Act and issues to do with children suffering abuse or other difficulties. In approaching the Department of Education and Science I am told it deals with schooling issues while I am told by the Minister's Department that it is concerned with the organisational aspects of sport.
There is a need for somebody to address the issue of playgrounds because insurance companies effectively deal with it at present when they dictate to local authorities that children must not be encouraged to play with organised facilities because of the risk of litigation and so on. They are overplaying that concern. There should be a reasonable arrangement. What Department represents the interests of children in the area of recreational sport? I hope the Minister will provide an answer, especially with regard to the issue of play facilities, when he responds to the debate.
The Bill refers to inclusiveness in a number of ways. There are references to recreational and competitive sport. Like other Deputies I have received representations from bridge players. Some have gone to the trouble of sending me the definition of sport as set out in Chambers Dictionary. According to the dictionary it means "recreation; pastime; dalliance; amorous behaviour; play; a game, especially one involving bodily exercise". There is plenty of scope to be inclusive. Deputy Hanafin pointed out that a game like chess or bridge is to many, especially the elderly or disabled, the most physically and mentally stimulating game within their capabilities. These games deserve the recognition as a sport currently denied to them. I hope the Minister will address this in his reply.
While it may be argued that contract bridge does not express or improve physical fitness, it nevertheless provides an outlet for many people who cannot or chose not to engage in strenuous physical activity. Given that the Minister is obliged by his terms of office to take the broadest possible view and reflect the concerns of the community as a whole it should be possible that interests such as those involved in organising contract bridge are not excluded by the terms of the Bill. Section 6 should, therefore, be amended on Committee Stage to include the recreational games I mentioned. The Minister might exercise his prerogative in this regard. I am sure the case made by the Contract Bridge Association is representative of the position of a great number of minority sports which give pleasure and enjoyment without attracting the attention of elite athletes, as they are often referred to.
The issue of shared sporting facilities comes up time and again. From dealing with these issues at local authority level I know many sports clubs are required to share facilities. The main difficulty is that there are not enough facilities to share, which causes tension at times. An example should be given by all sports organisations that where public resources are expended, facilities ought to be shared. The money going to fund those resources is shared by all of us as taxpayers and that should determine the shared facility principle. Publicly funded sports facilities are a relatively scarce resource. I hope the enactment of the Bill will herald a new era in which establishing the sharing of sports facilities will be the norm.
Safety is another issue which occupies the minds of everybody involved in sport, particularly parents of young people. From reports and personal experience, we are all aware of accidents that have happened, but there are also a considerable number of near misses. It is important to learn lessons from those who are involved in sport either through coaching, participation or as observers. There was a very near miss during a recent national athletics contest when a child ran out in front of a javelin thrower. The javelin missed the child by a matter of feet. As a matter of priority we should pay considerable attention to increasing safety at sports facilities.
Section 7 refers to sponsorship agreements. I would like to tie this in with the section that deals with anti-doping to ensure sport is drug free. I hope the long established practice of alcohol and tobacco companies becoming heavily involved in sports sponsorship can be challenged and faced down. Many sponsors are benign in terms of the physical effect of their products on sports people, but the record in terms of alcohol and cigarettes increasingly demonstrates they are not compatible with achieving excellence in sport. It is a contradiction to try to challenge drugs in sport while at the time images that promote alcohol and cigarettes swamp both viewers and participants. When it comes to terms of reference, I hope sponsorship agreements will deliberately favour ethical sponsorship instead of alcohol and cigarette advertising.
The section that relates to the circumstances under which a person may be disqualified or removed from membership of the sports council will I hope ensure we reflect on the experience of swimming, where questions arose as to whether a body should be suspended pending investigation. It would be an opportunity to put in place, rather than reacting to situations as they arise, some type of guidelines which could be referred to on the basis of experience. That would ensure we could deal with those type of situations if they arise in the future. Let us hope they will not, but experience teaches us that we must be prepared for such eventualities, as was referred to earlier concerning interference with swimmers. I hope that can be dealt with to some extent in the course of the debate on this Bill.
There has been considerable interest in this Bill. People have told me they hope it will implement certain objectives. Many people have referred to funding, which will always be a sore subject. When we review lottery funding it should be borne in mind that the sports council might be the correct body to disburse it, given its terms of reference, rather than such funding being laid open to the charge of political favouritism, which has sometimes occurred.
I hope the bias will be in favour of community facilities with the widest possible use. It is difficult to reconcile the £250,000 given to the K-Club against the needs of junior football clubs and various other athletic organisations dealing with vast numbers of young people. I hope the greatest number of people in need will benefit from the type of funding disbursed under the auspices of the sports council.
In north Dublin many young people are involved in athletics and various other sporting pursuits. They try hard to achieve and some of them are successful. The irony is that the more successful they become the more expensive it is for them to continue in their particular sports. The Minister has assisted a number of elite athletes and recognises their needs. A number of them must leave the country to train in warm weather which can place an enormous burden on them, something with which athletes from warmer climates do not have to cope. A friend of mine from Lusk, John Carroll, is an athlete with a local athletics club. He has been invited to participate in sporting events in London, Edinburgh and the south of France, but the huge financial burden that places on the families of such athletes should be taken into account. These people are competing at an amateur level and have to pursue academic and other careers. It means that, effectively, they suffer for the sake of whatever glory Ireland manages to get from their achievements. I hope that will be recognised by the sports council so that support can be given more promptly when those needs arise.
There has been much talk in the media about building a national stadium and other facilities on greenfield sites. I hope the amount of coverage given to such exciting proposals will not eclipse the needs of the many facilities around the country which manage to host sporting events, often in the most primitive conditions. I realise the Morton Stadium in Santry is legendary in the number of events it has hosted. It continues to be a very popular venue and has many admirable qualities. Antrim also has a very fine sports facility for athletes. That we have only one indoor 200 metre track in Nenagh, which is very much in need of investment, indicates that we really ought to look at facilities which are in place and make sure they can provide for young and up-and-coming athletes who will aspire to greater things. Then we can turn to the larger projects which will, in turn, be very welcome. However, I hope larger projects will not be built at the expense of facilities dealing with events on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis but which are long overdue for investment.
Teastaíonn uaim fáilte a cur roimh an mBille tríd is tríd agus, le cúnamh Dé, le linn an chéad Committee Stage eile beimíd in ann an-cuid de na ceisteanna seo a árdú mar leasaithe, agus arís bhéadh an-áthas orm dá bhféadfá freagraí a tha-bhairt dom air na ceisteanna sin mar gheall ar shabháltacht agus mar gheall ar fhógraíocht i gcúrsaí spóirt mar tá sé an-thábhachtach do dhaoine óga na tíre go bhfeicfidís go bhfuil an Rialtas i ndáirire mar gheall ar cheist drugaí trí cosc a cur ar dhrugaí a bheith mar cuid den fhógraíocht, agus tá sé sin an-thábhachtach agus beidh mé ag súil leis na freagraí sin.