Private Members' Business. - National Stadium: Motion.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann:

–noting the Taoiseach's insistence on building a National Stadium;

–noting the rate of inflation in the construction industry and the likelihood that the project will cost at least IR£1 billion;

calls on the Government to cease all work on the National Stadium with the exception of the aquatic centre and instead:

(i) to redirect funding to assist and support the GAA and the FAI in completing Croke Park and Eircom Park respectively,

(ii) to enter negotiations with the IRFU regarding funding for their Stadium Development Programme, and

(iii) to redirect money to be spent on the National Stadium to the development of sporting infrastructure at regional, club, schools and community level in accordance with the Sporting Facilities Development Programme to be formulated by the Irish Sports Council in consultation with sporting and community organisations.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Clune, Deenihan, Ring and Perry.

I am moving this motion because the proposal to build a national stadium as set out by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation can be described as the utmost folly. I will set out the reasons the Taoiseach and the Minister have got their priorities wrong. They are doing sport in Ireland a serious disservice by proceeding with a project that will be a major white elephant. What is supposed to be a field of dreams will turn into a nasty and expensive nightmare for the taxpayer.

The Taoiseach announced in January 1999 that the Government intended to build a national stadium at a cost of £281 million. Even that amount caused questions to be asked by leading sportsmen and sportswomen about the Taoiseach and his Government's priorities in relation to the development of sport in Ireland. They asked if professional and spectator sports were to be given priority over participatory sport as well as sport at club, local, community and regional levels. Many people were also puzzled by the sudden appear ance of this major proposal since it was not in the programme for Government, drafted by the two Government parties, or its mid-term review.

It was announced that the cost of the stadium would be £281 million but the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Tourism, Sport and Recreation established at its meeting on 14 September 2000 that this figure was a serious underestimation of the real cost. The promoters of the stadium had to quickly adjust their estimate from £281 million to £550 million. This revised figure of £550 is still a serious underestimation of the real cost of the stadium because it does not take a number of important factors into consideration.

The first is that the Veterinary Research Laboratory and the Marine Institute must be relocated to make way for the stadium. The estimated cost of this relocation was £90 million in February 2000. However, in a reply to a parliamentary question in December 2000, it was conceded that the figure had increased alarmingly to £157 million. The second factor is that the estimated figure of £550 million did not include proposed road infrastructure costing approximately £20 million. The third factor is that it does not include the requirement to provide a fleet of buses to service the stadium from the city centre and other areas and to provide boarding facilities at an estimated cost of £20 million. The fourth factor is that it does include the provision of an athletics track which would cost an estimated £80 million if added. The Minister is shaking his head, but that cost is not included.

If it is to be a national stadium, I assumed an athletics track would be included. There is an athletics track in Morton Stadium but the Taoiseach and the Minister said, when announcing the project, that it would be capable of attracting world and European athletic championships. A stadium without an athletics track will not have the facilities for such championships.

The fifth factor is an escalation in building costs, which will be substantial between 1999 and 2003. If, as a conservative estimate, building costs increase by only 5% over the four years, one can understand by how much the cost of the project could increase. The sixth factor is that it does not include the value of the land at Abbotstown. This land is conservatively priced at between £100 million and £200 million.

The Taoiseach said during Question Time on 17 October 2000 that the cost of the stadium element of the project was, and is, £281 million. He continued that the feasibility study was based on that figure and all the examinations carried out by the advisory board were based on it. The 15,000 capacity multiple sports indoor arena, the medical centre, the administration block and other facilities were not covered by the £281 mill ion. Therefore, one cannot make a comparison between the £281 million and the £550 million figures because they relate to different elements. The £281 million relates to the stadium only and the campus involves all the other initiatives. The original Price Waterhouse report was on the stadium alone and not any other element of the campus. The price in that report was £281 million and the additional elements bring the figure up to £550 million.

The Taoiseach did not point out that many of these facilities were already included in the overall estimated cost of £281 million. In answering questions in the House in October, the Taoiseach effectively misled the Dáil and the public. I understand that, in a personal statement this evening, the Taoiseach corrected the record. I have not seen the text of his statement so I cannot comment on it. However, the Taoiseach and the Government are wasting taxpayers' money and I hope somebody in Government will speak strongly to him and tell him it is a scandal to spend £1 billion on a personal dream.

The Fine Gael Party is delighted that the 50 metre swimming pool project is proceeding. The rainbow coalition Government undertook the bid for the Special Olympics and the 50 metre pool required for that event would have been built anyway. My party also supports the concept of office accommodation for national federations and welcomes the national sports medicine and training centre which should be developed in conjunction with the national coaching and training centre in Limerick, but not necessarily on the Abbotstown site.

The proposed national stadium will be a monstrosity on the landscape at Abbotstown and may be a massive white elephant. We must at this stage ask who will use the stadium because it is being planned in a situation where, to date, there is no anchor tenant. Perhaps the Minister could address this aspect in his contribution. It is being built against a background where the GAA is proceeding with its magnificent redevelopment of Croke Park. This will cost the organisation and its clubs dearly unless the Government offers substantial financial aid because the project is running seriously over budget.

The national stadium is also being developed in a situation where the FAI is developing an ultra modern stadium at Eircom Park. The initial cost of this project was £65 million, but the bill may be much more before the stadium is completed. The project is awaiting a decision from An Bord Pleanála on the appeal submitted by the Government through the Department of Defence. The FAI has been harassed and its progress has been impeded by the Government since it announced its plans for Eircom Park although the organisation has not sought funding from the Government and it is spending its own money. This contrasts sharply with the Taoiseach's stadium which will consume large amounts of taxpayers' money.

The development of the national stadium is also taking place at a time when the IRFU has not yet disclosed its plans to either redevelop Lansdowne Road or build a new stadium on its land bank at Newlands Cross. The decision to build a national stadium was taken against a background where over 1,600 clubs applied in 2000 for capital grants to build facilities. Almost 1,000 of these clubs were refused funding despite the fact that many of them are still catering for young people in conditions where they must dress and undress at the sides of ditches and roads or in substandard or disused railway containers because of a lack of facilities. They are not getting money in many cases because the funding is spread so thinly on the ground. Clubs seeking £20,000 or £30,000 are not receiving that amount and some cannot proceed with projects. I am asking that the Government consider prioritising the development of a national sporting infrastructure rather than investing £1 billion in the Taoiseach's pet project.

We should be making increased resources available for swimming pools. The Minister at the end of last year had a total of 51 proposals from local authorities under the swimming pool programme. Decisions at that time had been made only in the case of five proposals and there were 46 proposals from local authorities still in hand. Some 21 of these proposals related to refurbishment of existing swimming pools and the remaining 25 were to construct new pools. Of course these figures do not include applications from private groups who wish to build swimming pools in towns and cities around the country.

The figures provided by the Minister's Department in response to parliamentary questions in late 2000 show the scale of need within the sporting communities in that the estimated cost of projects which applied for grant aid was £857 million and the estimated allocation was £36 million. The estimated value of unsuccessful projects was £745 million.

The Minister in a statement in the House during Question Time on one occasion made a childish argument, that he provided more in one year than I, as Minister, provided in three years. I submit that we are not comparing like with like. In 1994 the funding of sporting organisations was done on anad hoc basis. The first priority for any responsible person was to put in place a national plan for sport because the only way one would get sufficient funding to meet the needs of sporting organisations from the Department of Finance was to put in place a national strategy. I compared it to the businessman who goes to the banker for a loan for a business. Unless a business plan is in place the funding will not be forthcoming from the bank. Likewise, a Minister without a business plan for sport could not expect to get Exchequer funding for sports projects.

The national plan for sport advocated dramatically increased funding for sport at all levels but with greater emphasis on participatory sport because it acknowledged that sport is the greatest preventative element in the fight against crime and drugs. The then Taoiseach recognised that and set up the ministerial task force on drugs. One key recommendation of that task force was the use of sport and recreation as a preventative element in the fight against crime and drugs. It laid heavy emphasis on a preventative programme in one of the 11 pilot projects. The point I am making is that the priority at the time was to get a national plan for sport in place. The plan advocated a dramatic increase in funding as well as the appointment of a serious Minister at Cabinet level. I acknowledge that the Taoiseach implemented both of those key recommendations to a degree, appointing a senior Minister. However, where he went wrong was that he ignored one of the key provisions of that plan, that priority should be given to participatory sport, to involving young people at all levels of sport, irrespective of the role they play. The principle was that if you get them involved in sport, you will keep them away from the negative influences of crime and drugs.

The Minister's criticism of the previous Government, and particularly of me, was childish. He engaged in one-upmanship. We were not comparing like with like. I do not care to hear that argument here this evening because the figures for sporting projects to which I referred earlier speak for themselves.

Despite the level of demand for funding for sporting projects throughout the country and despite the fact that the majority of schools do not have sports halls, the Taoiseach and the sports Minister are preparing to spend up to, or perhaps more than, £1 billion on a project which to this day does not have an anchor tenant. To my knowledge, no contract or legally binding arrangements have been put in place regarding tenancy of the stadium. I would ask anybody interested to read the proceedings of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Tourism, Sport and Recreation of 14 September last to see the feather-brained aspirations regarding who would use the stadium. We are told the GAA will commit itself to major events there. What major GAA events would attract 80,000 people to the national stadium? I ask the Minister to stop trying to kill the Eircom Park project to justify this national stadium. Will he explain exactly what is happening in regard to this project?

I am calling on the Government to cease all work on the national stadium, with the exception of the aquatic centre, and instead redirect funding to assist and support the GAA and the FAI in completing Croke Park and Eircom Park respectively. Why does the Minister not call in those three major organisations and ask them to discuss the provision of model stadia in this city and country? What happened last Sunday in Limerick was regrettable. Trying to get the people who wished to go to the rugby match into the stadium with a capacity of 13,000 was akin to putting a gallon into a pint bottle, while there was a stadium with a capacity of 55,000 lying idle perhaps half a mile away.

The major sporting organisations must come together in a sensible way. We have religions sharing facilities but we cannot get our sporting groups to agree to share facilities. They have a responsibility. While acknowledging the right of any organisation to protect its property and investments, sport should cross over all boundaries. The fact that I could not get a ticket has nothing to do with it, but last Tuesday morning genuine supporters queued in rain, wind and cold to try to get tickets for the big event last Sunday.

I ask the Minister to be a leader in sport and get those organisations together to discuss the issues related to the provision of major facilities and other attendant issues. He should make clear that if some agreement can be reached, the Exchequer is prepared to fund projects.

The provision of £50 million to Croke Park would get the GAA over the major hump. All the controversy about Eircom Park, provided it gets over planning objection by the Department of Defence, could be eliminated if the Government showed its commitment to the FAI in the development of that stadium in the manner in which it has showed its commitment to other sports. The Minister will talk about the development of the League of Ireland and other facilities for young people, but in the case of major stadia in particular, the bullet should be bitten by the Minister.

If Eircom Park with a capacity for 45,000 goes ahead and if Croke Park is completed to the standard to which the GAA is aspiring, there will be two magnificent projects in this city which will be a credit to two magnificent organisations and to sport.

What about another one?

No, I am not saying that. We should at least talk to them about their needs. All I ask the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation to do is to talk to them.

They have a stadium already, in case the Minister does not know, at Lansdowne Road and a landbank at Newlands Cross. Let us talk to them and see what they require.

We have talked to them all.

We should talk to them all together around the table.

We have talked to the IRFU.

I am calling on the Government to cease all work on the national stadium with the exception of the aquatic centre and instead to redirect funding to assist and support the GAA and the FAI in completing Croke Park and Eircom Park, respectively. The national stadium will then be redundant.

The added advantage of the £1 billion would enable the Minister to resolve the problem of stadium Dublin and resolve the problems–

Deputy you have used 21 minutes.

Thank you, a Leas Cheann Comhairle, and I will finish it within one minute. He would resolve the problems for other clubs, the hundreds of clubs I set out here, that are barely surviving.

They cannot spend what I have given them.

They cannot because the Minister is spreading the jam or the resources too thinly.

There are not enough.

I know clubs that looked for certain amounts and got a fraction of what they looked for. I was at fault in that way too and I would readily accept the criticism.

In comparison to what the Deputy –

In comparison? There is no comparison – different times, different circumstances. The resources that would be freed would transform sporting infrastructure and we would bring sport from 19th century standards that, to our shame, still exist into the 21st century. It could be done with a bit of courage and a little vision.

I have not spoken here tonight about the vested interests involved in sport and the way in which they control and manipulate sport and people who are speaking about national stadiums who have vested interests. I have not spoken about that and I do not want to go into personalities. The argument is sufficiently strong on its own to win the support of this House and the public.

I speak in support of the motion my colleague, Deputy Allen, has brought forward tonight, on the aspect of the motion that focuses on transferring funds nationally to channel funds to be spent on the development of sporting infrastructure at regional, club, schools and community level, as the motion states, in accordance with the sporting facilities development programme.

It is important we recognise that, across the country, sporting facilities are under-funded. As Deputy Allen pointed out, in figures I was not aware of but which are startling, £857 million worth of funding was applied for and only £36 million was provided. That, in itself, indicates that there is a deficit throughout the country.

We are well aware that the sporting –

If they cannot spend £36 million how are they going to spend £857 million?

I know many clubs in my constituency that are looking for pitches, renting pitches, have no secure pitches of their own and are transferring children across the city to pitches outside their area. As regards the voluntary sector involved in sporting facilities, particularly on a Saturday morning, they do not have enough facilities and, since they cannot guarantee pitches and matches, training sessions have to be cancelled.

The value of sport and of providing children and young people with an alternative, with a hobby, and keeping them off the streets, is important. The value of physical training, mixing with other children and of companionship is important. The discipline of turning up on a Saturday morning or a Wednesday night for training is also important. All these values cannot be underestimated.

I had a letter today from young people in my constituency who had done a survey in their school. The one thing they criticised, and that they agreed to pass on to all their public representatives, was the lack of sporting facilities in their community, the lack of a sports hall, of pitches, of public tennis courts, etc. You can join a private tennis club or a local private leisure centre attached to a hotel at £1,000 per family per year but there is no public swimming pool, nowhere they can go to pay £2.50 or £3 and know it will be there for them at set times. These are facilities that are lacking throughout the country.

I have asked questions in relation to the swimming pool programme and there is only £45 million allocated over three years for that – £15 million a year. We are trying to introduce a proposal in the Cork Corporation area to redevelop a swimming pool but we are told it will cost £6 million, £3 million of which is not even guaranteed as funding forthcoming from the Department.

When the Deputy's party was in Government—

Minister, I would ask you not to interrupt as the time for this debate is limited.

That shows that the sports programme has been hyped out of all perspective. There is not enough funding provided in the programme to match the requirements nationally.

If we are serious about developing sporting facilities across the country the national stadium, as promoted and supported strongly by the Taoiseach, is not the answer to that problem. The answer is to spread the money throughout the country, to give it to local clubs and facilities to develop sporting facilities locally.

I have never played any of these sports. I am not a follower of sports, though I attend major finals, but that is its value to most people; they go once a year or twice a year, if even then, if they can get tickets. What my colleague, Deputy Allen, has outlined is true. Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork was not in use the weekend before last while people could not get to see the Munster rugby match. The same was true of Thomond Park in Limerick last week.

I agree with the Deputy there.

We had no Munster final last year; this meant that Páirc Uí Chaoimh has not been used at all. It is just there. This is a disgrace. There must be some way these organisations can get together to open up facilities so that they are available to all to use. It is important that we pay tribute to the voluntary work that has been done.

Looking at the figures Deputy Allen has provided in relation to the cost of the national stadium, when we add the extras that have not been taken into account – the development of infrastructure to the stadium, the development of rail and bus services and the cost escalation – the cost of construction is escalating enormously. If one speaks to builders across the country, one will learn that, as regards any construction job, the price will have increased by 20% by the time this project is completed. That is true of most projects now due to the cost of construction and we have not seen the half of it yet. This is a scandal.

We should first concentrate on developing and building up sporting structures across the country and encouraging young people to become involved in sports. Then let us look at our stadiums if we need them nationally. They are not of relevance to the ordinary individual who is, day in and day out, trying to encourage young people to get involved in sports.

I am delighted to have an opportunity to speak on this motion. If nothing else it allows us to have a discussion on sport, which we rarely have. For such an important part of Irish society, sport should be discussed at least once a year in this House.

It is right for any Opposition to ask questions. That is the job of an opposition in any democracy. It should not be blamed for asking pertinent questions about costs to the taxpayer. That is what we are doing here. We are here to protect the taxpayer and that is why we must be forever vigilant as regards how taxpayers' money is spent. I compliment Deputy Allen for pursuing his cam paign against the national sports centre when one considers the amount of taxpayers' money that is going to be spent.

I must clarify my position. In 1988 I wrote an article for theIrish Independent and in it I proposed everything in the Minister's proposal. I was spokesperson on sport at the time and it was my vision for a national stadium. I went further than the Minister's proposal in that I suggested the complex should include a 50 metre pool, a sportshouse, a national museum of sport, a national injury rehabilitation centre as well as a national stadium which would encompass all sports. I cannot say I am completely opposed to the Minister's proposals. What must take place is a rational and reasoned debate on this issue.

The GAA must clarify its position. I am still actively involved in the GAA. I still coach football teams such as the divisional team in north Kerry. I am a GAA man and am still involved with my club. The people in Croke Park, who at times operate at a distance from the level at which I operate within the organisation, must clarify soon whether they will allow soccer or rugby to be played in Croke Park. If the Government proceeds with its plans, which it will as long as the Minister is around because he is very committed to, focused on and wishes to proceed with this project, it can legitimately say that the GAA gave it no indication that, in five years' time, it would not decide that, to pay its maintenance costs, it would be profitable for it to offer Croke Park to rugby or soccer. The GAA must come clean and clarify its position.

The IRFU must do likewise. It is delighted to co-operate because it will receive the use of a free stadium. It is paying its players massive amounts of money at present and is finding it very tough to survive. How much will it bring or how much money will it spend on the new stadium? If I were in charge of the IRFU, I would be delighted to co-operate and use the facilities, but how much will it invest in the stadium? The Lansdowne Road site is worth a fortune and its other land out in Newlands Cross or wherever is worth a great deal of money. The IRFU must give a commitment as to what it will invest in the stadium initially and in its maintenance.

The FAI should have had a stadium many years ago. Unlike the GAA which, in fairness, invested its money in facilities, I do not know what the FAI did with its money. It certainly did not provide any facilities. There is not one dressing room in Kerry soccer. Soccer players in Kerry still tog out on the side of a ditch or out of the boots of their cars. That is a scandal. The FAI has no regard for the small clubs in Kerry and throughout the country. The organisation is completely centralised. I am sure Pat Hickey would feel at home in it at times. It has provided nothing whereas it should have provided a stadium. It has a proposal for one now and it should state whether it will proceed with it. Some of the organisation's members do not want it and oppose it while others are more than enthusiastic about it. It will have to decide rapidly. If Eircom Park proceeds, I do not see how the Minister can proceed with the national stadium.

This is similar to a situation where three into two must go. While the national stadium will be the shining jewel, the foundations of sport are also very important. It is to be hoped the huge cost of the project will not blind the Government to the real need for a new and much more comprehensive programme for sport at community level. Facilities in deprived urban areas are like those from early in the previous century.

Building a new stadium is a very ambitious plan. However, we should take note of the Dome experience in London on which £1 billion was spent. We should be extremely careful given the budget overrun in that case. It is correct that we should question the Government's sums for outlay and investment in the stadium. The Dome was an embarrassment for the British Government. It is possible an Irish man will buy it for £185 million to £200 million where it cost the British Exchequer £1 billion. We must be very careful about the direction we take.

Relocation of the State agencies on site, such as the State Laboratory, will cost £100 million. That is a huge cost. The site in question is more than 400 acres. Will the Minister clarify if it is necessary for these buildings to be relocated, some, I understand, to the constituency of the Minister of Finance, Deputy McCreevy, at a cost of £100 million? These agencies perform very important public functions. I understand a massive rebuilding programme costing £3 million is nearing completion at the State Laboratory. It must be asked why these buildings are being demolished and the offices being relocated.

It is a pity an accommodation was not reached with the GAA about the use of Croke Park. It scarcely represents good housekeeping for the State to award £20 million to support Croke Park only to proceed with plans for another 80,000 seater stadium. That money should have been given conditionally given that Croke Park is idle for a good part of the year. It is regrettable that was not done because it could be made ready for rugby at this time of the year.

Ireland has fewer than 4 million people and the economies of scale are considerably less than in the UK. What is happening with the various stadium plans at present is like a duplication of businesses. Common sense and good business practices must prevail.

There must be a rethink of the plan and I compliment Deputy Allen on calling for a moratorium on the national stadium project until the Committee of Public Accounts has conducted a full, open and independent review. It is important that that be conducted regardless of who invests money. Mr. McManus will invest £50 million but that could be the most expensive £50 million we ever received. Given the scale and magnitude of this project, the Minister will feel easier in years to come if there is an independent review of this plan.

An independent review was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The Minister should allow Deputy Perry to continue.

It was appointed by the Government.

To whose independent review does the Deputy refer?

A review should be conducted by the Committee of Public Accounts which represents all vested interests in the House. The Minister wants to spend £1 billion. The foundations of sport are in the community. While the Minister has increased funding in sport, and Deputy Allen alluded to this, it has not been to the degree necessary. We are talking about a situation where three into two must go. We cannot have three stadia in Dublin, all of them catering for the marketplace. There must be a comprehensive plan. Certain aspects of the Campus Ireland project are needed, such as the 50 metre swimming pool, but an independent study of it would clearly establish the direction we should take.

While it did not deal directly with sport, the Dome in London is the best example. There was a massive fanfare at its opening, yet £1 billion was lost on it. That should be a warning. We do not have the Exchequer resources of the British state. The Dome was an embarrassment of which the Prime Minister, Mr. Blair, was delighted to wash his hands and shut down at a huge loss. The national stadium project will involve massive relocation and investment while people at the foundations of sport are crying out for resources.

We have a facility at Sligo Rovers on which £500,000 could be spent to make it a vibrant club. The want of a small amount of funds may mark its death-knell. Granted, the Minister provided some funds, but not near enough. The project warranted much greater investment to ensure its viability.

While there is a need for a stadium, the Minister should build from the bottom. In this context one must question the co-operation received from the FAI, the GAA and the rugby authorities. All those investing in sport should sit around the table to present a plan to comprehensively meet the needs identified in the context of a national stadium. Competition is the lifeblood of trade and business. It is regrettable that vested interests are operating in the sports arena. Common sense must prevail. There is a great slogan in business: timber surfaces in water. When this matter is fully analysed, clearly much will surface in water.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann:" and substitute the following:

–reaffirms the Government's decision to proceed with the plans for the development of Campus and Stadium Ireland as agreed by the House on 9 February 2000;

–notes the intention to complete the project on a value for money, cost effective basis;

–welcomes the progress made to date by Campus and Stadium Ireland in progressing the Government decision; and

–notes the Government's significantly increased financial provision under the sports capital and local authority swimming pool programmes for the development of facilities throughout the country at local, regional and national level.

The subject matter of the Private Members' motion introduced by Deputy Allen provides yet another opportunity to answer the hoary old question so often posed by students of politics. What is the difference between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael? The attitude of the Fine Gael leadership to the campus and stadium project highlights one major difference. Fine Gael's approach, as expressed by Deputy Allen, is timid, parochial and devoid of all vision.

Nice, but expensive words.

The Fianna Fáil approach and that of our partners in government is forward-looking and ambitious, reflecting confidence in the capacity of this country to embark on a major undertaking which will, over time, bring immense benefit to the people and national economy.

I am afraid Deputy Allen does not understand the nature of what is envisaged for Sports Campus Ireland. We are not simply building a football pitch. We are creating a state-of-the-art complex of sports facilities worthy of a successful and progressive modern European nation. In addition, we are putting in place a sports infrastructure which will enable us to bid for, credibly, and host major international sports events which at present are beyond our reach. Deputy Allen of all people knows well that substantial investment in golfing facilities during the past decade has enabled us to become a mecca for golfing tourists and to bid successfully for the Ryder Cup. Sports Campus Ireland will, in time, attract comparable major international events.

It is just over one year since the Taoiseach first announced the Government's decision to develop Sports Campus Ireland at Abbotstown, County Dublin, on a site already in State ownership. This decision, which marked an increasing maturity and professionalism, in the best sense of the word, in Irish sport, reflected the Government's determination to provide the very best of facilities for all levels of participation and competition, from local facilities for community use right up to the world class facility which Sports Campus Ireland, with its 80,000 seat national stadium centrepiece capable of accommodating all field sports, will represent.

Before I outline the progress made during the past 12 months in advancing the project, I will recall those commentators who at the time of the recent Sydney Olympic Games marvelled at the wonderful facilities and structures provided by the Australian authorities to accommodate the games and bemoaned the lack of similar facilities here. Each time the World Cup, world championships and Olympic Games are held, the lack of such facilities here is highlighted and we are castigated by the media and other commentators because of it. Yet, now when we try to proceed to build such facilities, we get a different response. I say to those critics that Sports Campus Ireland will include a stadium of which the people can be proud and which can compete with any stadium worldwide for international events. To those who are less than supportive of the steps the Government is taking to remedy these shortcomings, I say that a great stadium will contribute much to our national prestige and sense of national pride and the existence of a world class stadium accessible to all will act as a catalyst for the development of sport. The concept of Sports Campus Ireland is rooted in the belief that strategic investment made today will realise significant benefits for future generations.

As the House is aware, a development company, Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Limited, CSID, has been established as a special purpose company under the chairmanship of Mr. Paddy Teahon, former Secretary General at the Department of the Taoiseach, and comprises representatives of the sports and business sectors to undertake and oversee the entire project. CSID met for the first time on 29 March last when it was addressed by the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance and me.

The executive services team provides a full range of executive, property, financial, management, planning, environmental and communications services for the company. The team to which the executive services contract was awarded is headed by Magahy and Company Limited, and comprises PricewaterhouseCoopers, Wilson Hartnell Public Relations, McHugh Consultants, Thorbourn Colquhoun, Sheamus Monaghan and Partners and Mr. Ronnie Delaney. The Office of Public Works is providing the project management function for the infrastructure of the campus and stadium and has established a dedicated unit for that purpose.

One of the first tasks of CSID was to examine the feasibility of providing some of the infrastructure for the Special Olympics in 2003. Because of the research already undertaken in the course of the original feasibility study and data compiled on the original campus, CSID asked PricewaterhouseCoopers to undertake a further phase of the feasibility exercise for the sports campus which follows on from and builds on its earlier work. In particular, PricewaterhouseCoopers was asked to consider an aquatic centre incorporating a 50 metre swimming pool, diving pool, two training pools, plus related infrastructure, to be available for the Special Olympics in 2003.

Government approval to proceed with the development of an aquatic and leisure centre at the Sports Campus Ireland site was given in July last and the project went to tender on the basis of a public-private partnership offering a contract for the design, build, operation, maintaining and financing of the centre. CSID is happy to report that the response to the competition is extremely positive. Meanwhile, I understand that an application for planning permission in respect of this element of the project was lodged just before Christmas. In putting the various facilities to public tender, CSID decided to establish the potential for completing as much of the project as possible on a public-private partnership basis, minimising the requirement for State investment.

The tendering process is under way for the other facilities envisaged for the Campus Stadium Ireland site. These include the stadium, the indoor arena, the indoor and outdoor training halls and pitches, the sports science and medical centre, the headquarters for sports organisations, specific sports facilities decided on the advice of the Irish Sports Council and the visitor information centre. The first stage of this process closed earlier this month and proposals are now being assessed with a view to issuing invitations for the second stage as soon as possible.

CSID also held a competition to develop an architectural and environmental framework plan for the entire site of 500 acres. The winning framework plan will suggest a logical and coherent approach to accommodating Sports Campus Ireland, a major parkland amenity to serve the community and general public, a major science/educational project to be selected and complementary commercial and leisure projects with respect to the built and natural heritage that exists at Abbotstown. This competition is being managed by the Royal Association of Architects in Ireland in association with CSID. The winning framework plan will suggest access and transport solutions to the site as well as an overall policy approach to the quality of the architecture that will be expected for this important site. It is intended that the winning team of architects will develop a detailed development control plan for the site and will act as consultants to Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Limited throughout the duration of the project.

Furthermore, in order to ensure high quality architecture in the buildings on site, CSID is establishing, using normal tender procedures, a panel of architects from which the providers of facilities may be required to source their architectural input. Applications under this competition are currently being assessed. Finally, CSID expects to place an advertisement shortly in respect of the commercial elements of the campus. This will relate to the provision of hotels and complementary commercial facilities on the site.

I referred earlier to the feasibility study undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the 1999 research which effectively informed the Government's decision to develop a national stadium and sports campus. That report identified a figure of £281 million, which was made up of £230 million for Stadium Ireland and an initial guideline cost of £51 million for a campus of sporting excellence. As Paddy Teahon has pointed out, the stadium cost has not changed – it remains at £230 million. However, on the basis of further work by PricewaterhouseCoopers and professional estimates for the commercial facilities planned, the cost of the campus, excluding the stadium, is £320 million. This gives a total cost of £550 million for the entire campus and stadium project.

CSID believes that the private sector will be prepared to invest £150 million in the project, mostly for commercial facilities. That is a conservative estimate. When the private donation of £50 million is taken into account, this leaves £350 million to be invested by the Exchequer in Sports Campus Ireland, including Stadium Ireland. Over the past weeks and months I have heard that figure go from £300 million through to £400 million, then £500 million, £600 million, £750 million and £800 million. For some reason the sum of £900 million was left out before the figure of £1 billion was quoted. This week I read that the figure is £1.2 billion.

The cost to the Exchequer is estimated at £350 million. Members will appreciate that we will not be in a position to move from "best estimates" until the tender competitions have been completed, around the middle of this year, and the value of the contracts is known.

I assure the House that the Government and I, as Minister with responsibility since 1 January last for overseeing the Sports Campus Ireland project, will do everything in our power to ensure that stringent control is maintained over the costs of the project. In this regard, particular importance is attached to adherence to the Department of Finance guidelines and procedures for capital projects. Project management structures are already in place in the development company and in the Office of Public Works. These will be reviewed, as necessary, by my Department.

In carrying out its role in ensuring the proper planning and management of the Sports Campus Ireland project, the company will have the support of the project steering group set up last year under the auspices of the Department of the Taoiseach. This group, now chaired by my Department, provides a mechanism for co-ordination between interested Departments and offices, including CSID, and provides oversight of the development of the project.

The decision to proceed with the provision of Sports Campus Ireland is a logical progression from and complements the contribution of this Government to the development of sport over the past three and a half years. It can readily be seen that those countries throughout the world with a well developed, successful and progressive sports sector ensure that a holistic and cohesive approach is in place. Contrast this with what appears to be proposed by the Opposition motion. Deputy Allen is suggesting that the Government should fund the building of three stadia for each of the leading sports and have no national stadium. Surely the Deputy cannot be serious.

On a point of order. The Minister is misleading the House by suggesting—

That is not a point of order, Deputy.

It certainly is. If the Minister addressed himself to some of the questions put by the Opposition—

That is not a point of order. The Minister may continue.

I wish to put it on record that the Opposition wants to give money to the three stadia.

This is a limited debate and the Deputy had his opportunity.

I trust the time will be added on. Let me deal with the accusation that funding for local and community facilities is being redirected to fund Sports Campus Ireland. I wish to nail this argument once and for all. It is not an either/or situation. Since this Government took office in 1997, I have allocated £62 million to sporting organisations and community groups throughout the country with particular emphasis on areas of disadvantage. This contrasts with allocations to the value of £18 million in the previous three years. In one year this Government has provided more money to those organisations than Deputy Allen did in his three years in office.

I addressed that issue in my speech.

I have always been available to Deputies to discuss the needs of local and community sporting organisations.

Pathetic childishness.

Last year, for example, I met a cross party group to discuss plans for the development of sporting facilities run by the Oblate Fathers in Inchicore. We delivered the money and we have done everything possible to facilitate the early drawdown of the money. I will continue to listen to whatever representations are made by Members of this House and the Government will continue to deliver as it has done over the last three years.

The money is not necessarily the problem in this area – it is getting the money spent. Over the last two years I have listened to representations by Deputies and others and prioritised as much as possible to the organisations. They all promised that their facilities would be finished within a particular timeframe but we are currently only finishing 70% to 75% of those projects. If we cannot spend the £51 million that was made available last year, how are we to spend between £300 million and £500 million? We cannot get contractors and development to spend the £51 million.

Where will the Minister get them to spend £350 million?

We want to take all of the abstract plans sitting on secretaries' desks throughout the country and turn them into three dimensional bricks and mortar. Unfortunately, not through any fault of the governing bodies, we are unable to spend all of the allocated funding in a one year period. If we cannot spend £51 million, how are we to spend £351 million?

Among the highlights in the development and implementation of sports policy during 2000 was the launching of a statement of strategy by the Irish Sports Council entitled "A New Era for Irish Sport". The strategy charts the priorities of the council for the next three years. The Government committed itself in the budget to doubling the annual grant to the council from £10 million to £20 million. To achieve this target, an additional £2.5 million was provided for 2001 with further commitments to increases of the order of £5 million in 2002, £7.5 million in 2003 and £10 million in 2004. Following the Sydney Olympics, I met all of the Olympic participants who informed me that they required additional fund ing. That funding has now been provided. I was assured that if such funding was provided, the athletes would present me with bags of gold following the games in Athens.

The budget also provided a sum of £2.5 million towards the provision of opportunities for young people to participate in hurling, football, soccer and rugby. The £2.5 million will be distributed by the Irish Sports Council with £1 million each being provided to the GAA and FAI and £500,000 to the IRFU, specifically to attract more young people into these sports. In addition, a further allocation of £500,000 has been provided to encourage and promote greater participation in recreational sport and activities by older people, something not contemplated by any previous Administration. Under the international carding scheme, grants in excess of £1.1 million were awarded in 2000 to 236 players and athletes representing 24 sports.

The building of Ireland's first ever 50 metre swimming pool at the University of Limerick is ongoing with a target opening date of mid-2001. Government funding of £5.95 million was provided towards the building costs of the facility, in addition to an annual subvention of £195,000 per annum towards the running costs. I am also pleased to announce the increased provision of £45 million for local authority swimming pool programmes. The rainbow coalition provided total funding of only £3 million in this area. The increased funding provides local authorities an enhanced opportunity to submit proposals for the refurbishment of existing pools and the construction of new ones. Some 50 proposals were received by the closing date of 31 July 2000. During 2000, a revised funding mechanism was put in place which resulted in a grant of up to £3 million being made available for the renovation of existing pools or the construction of new ones. These local authorities can now obtain a grant of £3 million – the total amount of funding provided annually by the rainbow coalition – for one pool which they wish to refurbish.

In the area of local development, grants to the value of £36 million were allocated to some 679 clubs and organisations under the sports capital programme during 2000. This allocation included a sum of £25.7 million for community and voluntary groups throughout the country towards the provision of local sport and recreational facilities. Those local organisations have found it impossible to draw down that amount of money because there are not sufficient contractors and developers to complete the projects. How, then, would it be possible to draw down an increased amount of funding?

Does the Minister wish me to provide him with a list of organisations which require funding?

A sum of £4.8 million was awarded towards the provision of a national indoor athletic training facility at Morton Stadium, Santry, to complement the existing outdoor athletics stadium. Included in this project will be a new headquarters for the unified national athletics body for Ireland, the Athletics Association of Ireland. I also awarded £500,000 towards the development of Ringsend Stadium, Dublin, as an athletic and football facility and a total of £2.35 million was allocated to a range of county GAA and FAI grounds throughout the country. I have facilitated eight League of Ireland clubs and 15 county grounds to date and it is my intention to provide State aid to all 26 county grounds and League of Ireland clubs before the end of this Administration. I look forward to a favourable response to this year's programme and to the opportunity to further assist sports organisations and local community groups and clubs through the provision of much needed facilities in every corner of the country. There was a reference to sports people having to tog out in ditches etc. throughout the country. That is not happening.

The Minister is sticking his head in the sand. Perhaps a tour of the country would bring him down to reality.

I accept there may be particular areas which deserve priority and that priority will be accorded. Some 96% of the applications I am currently receiving relate to the improvement of facilities. I am not including in those figures local pub teams which receive a set of jerseys from the publican as I am aware that some of those teams do not have facilities. I compliment Deputy Allen because, between the two of us, Cork has received more than £6 million in recent years. I do not understand where Deputy Clune was coming from because Cork has received the second largest allocation in the country.

It is only proper that Irish sports people and athletes, who are benefiting from the improved facilities currently available or under construction through supports and services provided by the State, should have a world class stage in their own country on which they can compete with world class peers and showcase their skills and prowess.

CSID has been—

On a point of order, this is the only opportunity the Minister will have to contribute to this debate. A number of very relevant questions have been asked of him but he has not answered them.

That is not a point of order.

CSID has conducted discussions, in conjunction with the Irish Sports Council, with a wide range of individual NGBs. These dis cussions have informed the tendering process being pursued by CSID in relation to the facilities which will be put in place in Sports Campus Ireland. In regard to the pool, for example, both Swim Ireland and Special Olympics Ireland have made a significant contribution to the process. All of these initiatives are taking place in consultation with the community groups in the area for whom Sports Campus Ireland will be a tremendous facility. It is vital to maintain communication with local communities.

I am satisfied, and I am sure the House will agree, that under this Government an ambitious programme of State-assisted expansion is under way in a wide range of sports facilities and support services, catering for both élite participants and the general public throughout the country. On one occasion, speaking in a political context, Parnell said that no one should set a boundary to the march of a nation. Those in the Fine Gael Party who oppose this project are very unwisely setting a boundary to progress and narrowing our horizons. Despite the names formally appended to the motion, the negative attitude expressed by Deputy Allen does not, I hope, reflect the views of all Fine Gael Deputies. They will obey the whip but quite a few will do so reluctantly. Many of them know in their hearts that this is a long-term project envisaged to serve the needs and opportunities of the country, not in 2003 or 2005 but in 2053 and 2055.

The Minister did not answer one of the important questions.

Tá áthas orm páirt a ghlacadh sa díospóireacht tábhtachtach seo and molaim an Teachta Allen as ucht an rúin a chur os comhair na Dála. I wish to share time tonight with Deputy Moynihan-Cronin and tomorrow night with Deputy Rabbitte.

There is one common factor between the proposed national stadium, the proposed Eircom Park and the redevelopment of Croke Park, namely, the cost overrun. In regards the national stadium and Eircom Park, there is not alone increasing cost but also serious division. At this stage the public and especially the sporting public are both confused and concerned. It is incumbent on each of us in the House, amid all this confusion and concern, to focus on what is best for sport in Ireland in a balanced way, having regard to all available resources.

Last October the Taoiseach announced that responsibility for the Sports Campus Ireland project would be transferred from his Department to the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation with effect from 1 January 2001. In the document produced by the Department of Sport when Deputy Allen was Minister, "Targeting Sporting Change in Ireland: Sport in Ireland 1997 to 2006 and Beyond", the core prin ciples of the sports strategy are outlined. It would serve all participating in this debate well to reflect on these core principles when we consider the deepening controversy regarding what most observers see as the over-provision of stadia in the greater Dublin area, a provision which in terms of scarce resources which have alternative uses, is unjustifiable. Indeed, there is great anger among a significant number of citizens who see this level of sporting investment in stadia as obscene against the non-provision of urgently needed health and hospital facilities.

I intend to present the core principles of the sports strategy to the House and to examine the Sports Campus Ireland project and the other projects in that context. The first principle is a people centred focus. Sport provision should place the needs, choices and abilities of participants at its central focus. The second principle is equality. Every Irish person, regardless of gender, age or ability, should have equal rights to participate in sport. The third principle is partnership. The development of sport depends on quality partnerships between the sports sector, public authorities, the private sector, individuals and organisations. The next principle is quality. The achievement of quality in sport requires the promotion and attainment of high standards at all levels, including participation, leadership, education, training, planning and management of sports facilities and support systems. The next principle is accountability. The full development of sport in Ireland demands the achievement of the optimum benefit from available resources. Evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of deployed resources is necessary if this is to be achieved.

The first question that needs to be addressed is why the Sports Campus Ireland project should, since its inception until the end of last year, have been within the responsibility of the Department of the Taoiseach. Following from that question is whether the core principles of the sports strategy were used as benchmarks for the project. I wish to clearly state the position of the Labour Party regarding the Sports Campus Ireland project. We support the campus of sporting excellence element of the project, but obviously we will require detailed explanations why, in less than 12 months, the estimated cost has rocketed from a guideline £51 million to £320 million. There is an indicative amount of £150 million from private investment and I take it from what the Minister has said that this will relate only to the campus of sporting excellence. I ask him to clarify this.

The Labour Party has real concerns with the national stadium element of Sports Campus Ireland. I stated those concerns on Wednesday, 26 January 2000, the day the feasibility study was launched, as follows.

We have long lamented the absence of an international quality major sports stadium in Dublin. With the GAA continuing with the development of Croke Park, the FAI committed to proceeding with its plans for the Eircom stadium and the Taoiseach insisting today that the Government intends to go ahead with its proposals for an 80,000 seater stadium in Abbotstown, there is now a real danger of unnecessary duplication and waste of money. It is very unlikely that there will be sufficient major sporting events to ensure viability for all these projects and there is every possibility that at least one of them will turn out to be a sporting white elephant.

The scene has been changing with bewildering speed since then.

Only in the media.

No, let me give the Minister the facts. Little if anything has happened in the interim to allay our fears. I will list some of our concerns. There is an estimated 23% inflation in the construction industry, but in a recent newspaper article Mr. Paddy Teahon, chairman of Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Limited, appears to be standing over the figure of £320 million for the national stadium, the figure in the Pricewaterhouse report. Yet in the same feasibility study under the heading construction costs the following is stated in relation to the American economist, Richard Baim:

. . . assessed the extent to which the cost of stadium projects exceeded their budgets. Of 15 stadia surveyed, the average budget overshoot was 73.4%. The evidence presented in table 8.2(d) suggests that early estimates are poor indicators of the final cost of a stadium. This is an important issue in considering the economic impact of the proposed Irish national stadium.

This is not from the media but from the report commissioned by the Government which we were told was an independent report. If we apply the 73.4% average overrun to the national stadium projects, the cost will come out at almost £400 million. I suggest an overrun of 73.4% against the background of an estimated 23% inflation in construction is extremely conservative. If we calculate the overrun to date on the campus of excellence project based on the £51 million guideline estimate and the more recent £320 million estimate, the figure we get is 527%. Even accepting that the aquatic centre, at an estimated cost of £15 million to £20 million, was added after the 26 January 2000 announcement, the increase in estimate is, to say the least, staggering.

The ancillary infrastructure and site clearance costs have also increased in substantial fashion. The cost of relocating the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and the Marine Institute laboratories increased in the latter part of 2000 from £90 million to £157 million, an increase of 70%. To my knowledge, we do not have reliable estimates of the costs of the roadworks and the proposed new station to the site. I put it to the Minister that it is very difficult, based on all I have outlined, to have confidence in regard to the £550 million estimate for the Sports Campus Ireland project.

There is concern about a serious overrun on the redevelopment of Croke Park. Some estimates put the overrun as high as 60%. There is a reported increase in the estimated cost of Eircom Park in the order of 66%. The IRFU is the only one of the three major sporting organisations which indicated to the consultancy team that if a national stadium is constructed, it would play its international matches in such a facility, subject to agreement on terms and conditions. While the GAA does not have international matches in the accepted sense, in regard to the feasibility study one could hardly describe the reported comments of the GAA as committing both organisations to intensive use of the national stadium. The Labour Party remains fully committed to an international quality major sports stadium appropriate to the national need.

I would like to explain the background to our amendment. My concern and the concern of the Labour Party is that we are facing duplication and waste of taxpayers' money. If the Minister takes the percentage I gave him, the figures being presented from his side of the House are no longer credible.

The Deputy said that in Sydney as well.

Sydney is Sydney. This is Dublin so I think—

Are we not as good as the Australians?

That is rather silly talk but I expect that.

Are we not as capable?

I am not saying we are not capable but the Minister has a duty to enter into immediate talks with the GAA, the IRFU and the FAI.

I am talking to them.

I am talking about focused talks in conjunction with something else. I am asking the Minister to get an independent body from outside the State to review the country's need in regard to national stadia, report back and make recommendations at an early date. Costs are going up. The Minister has had control of the sit uation since 1 January; it was the Taoiseach's baby up to that time.

I have not even launched it yet. The Deputy does not even know what is envisaged here.

Minister, I do not accept what you are saying.

The Deputy should address his remarks through the Chair.

There will be an over-provision of stadia in Dublin. The Minister must pull these elements together and get over the many difficulties, whether they are in the realm of mythology or whatever, so that we can get maximum use from existing and new provision in terms of stadia and not have this ridiculous situation continuing where some of the elements are proceeding while ignoring the rest of them. That is my concern. We should get somebody to independently examine our resources and our needs and tell us what we should do to maximise our position. This project was not sufficiently thought through at the outset.

I am delighted to contribute to this debate on the national stadium. The farce that has developed as a result of the conflicting plans to build a national stadium should end now but the strong position taken by the Government on its plans to proceed with Stadium Ireland and also the plans by the FAI to build its own stadium will ensure that this farce develops even further. I concur with the views expressed by my colleague, Deputy O'Shea, that an outside mediator should bring the sides together to thrash out a compromise in relation to the building of a national stadium.

A whole range of issues will arise if separate plans are undertaken to build a stadium, and at the centre of those is the cost. Many people in this House will have seen last week's "Prime Time" documentary on the St. Teresa's Gardens flats complex in Dublin's south inner city. In that documentary, one of the most poignant interviews was the one with a young teenager who explained how he had nowhere to play football. He pointed out that there was a tarmac playing pitch in the complex but the markings had long since faded and the goal posts were broken down. While youngsters were using this pitch for joyriding, he explained that he and his peers would like a proper place to play football.

Our booming economy has failed to deliver a basic football pitch in one of the most disadvantaged communities in the country.

That is not true.

There are hundreds more communities throughout the country fundraising locally for better sports facilities. The Minister's Department houses a huge number of applications for lottery funding from many organisations struggling to provide these basic facilities, and St. Teresa's Gardens is a prime example. Many of those organisations have been turned down time and again, and all this is happening at a time when the Government and the FAI are prepared to build two national football stadia at a cost of many millions of pounds.

I am not arguing against a national soccer stadium and a national centre for sports but I do not see the sense in delivering on the double when the money could be better spent building a playing field in St. Teresa's Gardens or in the hard-pressed communities which do not have facilities. If the Government and the FAI came to a compromise, we could have a national stadium and the money would be freed up to deliver what is needed by sports facilities in other communities. If both parties arrogantly chase their objective of building a stadium, the rows will only begin when the national matches are held. Indeed, doubts have been raised publicly over the location of both projects at Abbotstown and Tallaght. Both locations need more efficient public transport systems to ensure the safe and quick movement of patrons to and from matches. From experience throughout Europe, it seems that best practice is now to locate national stadia at central locations where there is a convergence of public transport. In the event of both the FAI and the Government coming together, I suggest they reconsider the location of the sports centre.

I welcome the Taoiseach's decision today to correct the record in relation to the cost of the national stadium. As chairperson of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Sport and Recreation, I received clarification on the cost of the project from Mr. Paddy Teahon after he gave incorrect figures on the cost during a presentation to the committee.

It was less. On a point of order, a Cheann Comhairle—

My time is limited.

The costs which the Taoiseach and Paddy Teahon corrected were overestimations, and I would like the Deputy to acknowledge that. They were overestimated, not underestimated.

I would like to read into the record the first two paragraphs of the letter, dated 30 January and addressed to the chairperson of the committee. It states:

Dear Chairperson,

You will recall that I gave evidence to a meeting of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Sport and Recreation on 14 September 2000. I am writing to apologise for mistakenly using a figure of £281 million for the cost of Stadium Ireland when the figure I should have used was and remains £230 million.

It was £50 million less.

The Minister should hear me out. Why has it taken from 14 September 2000 to 30 January 2001 to clarify the matter of misinformation to the committee? It is little wonder Members on this side of the House have concerns.

This is an embarrassment to those advocating the Government plan. Mark my words, we will become an embarrassment at international level if both projects proceed and rows begin about which matches should be at which stadium. I ask the Minister to take on board the suggestions made by the Labour Party.

Debate adjourned.