Other Questions.

Heraldry and Genealogy.

Simon Coveney

Question:

149 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism to outline the unresolved problems related to official grants of arms in this jurisdiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25261/04]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

188 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he intends to fill the vacant position of Chief Herald of Ireland; his views on the fact that no grants of arms have issued since September 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25260/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149 and 188 together.

My predecessor appointed Mr. Brendan O'Donoghue, the director of the National Library of Ireland, to act as Chief Herald and genealogical officer. The position of Chief Herald became vacant when Mr. O'Donoghue resigned last year, pending the appointment of a new director. Arrangements for filling the post are in train. Regarding the issue raised by the Deputy, I intend to grant autonomous status to the National Library of Ireland under the provisions of the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997, with effect from 1 January 2005 if possible. I propose to activate section 13 of the 1997 Act, which specifies that the Genealogical Office will be confirmed as an integral part of the National Library of Ireland, at the same time. The board of the National Library of Ireland, to be established under the 1997 Act, will be required to designate a member of its staff to research, grant and confirm coats of arms. That member of staff will be known as the Chief Herald of Ireland. The Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism is in consultations with the acting director to explore options for resolving the current difficulties, pending the establishment of the new board.

Will the Minister explain the delay in appointing the new Chief Herald in the National Library of Ireland, given that the previous office holder retired in September 2003? I appreciate that the Minister has proposed new arrangements, but it seems to me that somebody could have been appointed in the interim. There are concerns that section 13 of the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997, to which the Minister referred, provides an inadequate legal basis for the granting of arms by the Chief Herald. The Attorney General has expressed serious concern that the 1997 Act may not be used as to do so would cause chaos. I understand it was proposed to enact a genealogy and heraldry Bill to provide a sound legislative basis for services and facilities relating to such activities in the State. Are there any such proposals in the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism? Will the Minister consider the introduction of such legislation?

The post of director of the National Library of Ireland became vacant in September 2003 following the retirement of Mr. Brendan O'Donoghue, who did a wonderful job. We then advertised the post through the Civil Service Commission. That was at the end of January this year, but the process did not result in an appointment. In that context, the salary for the post was not an issue. Several options are currently being explored with a view to filling the post in the context of the establishment of the National Library as a separate legal entity, as is proposed from 1 January 2005, should that prove possible. I am not aware of any difficulty with section 13. I have certainly not been given any legal advice to the effect that there is anything wrong with it. However, it may well be the case that Deputy Deenihan has separate information. I do not have such information.

Given that I read in the newspapers that there might be a legal challenge if this section were used, I suggest to the Minister that he take advice on it. Does he think it a good idea that the office of the Chief Herald should be combined with the office of Director of the National Library, or should they be separate functions? Regarding the legislation, might he consider introducing a genealogy and heraldry Bill to provide a sound legislative basis for the area?

Interestingly, the proposal to establish a separate genealogical office, which I think is what Deputy Deenihan is getting at, was examined relatively recently by my predecessor who was not convinced that a separate office was necessary or desirable. The need for the genealogical office to have ready access to the library material held in the National Library and governed by its working practices and standards points strongly to the maintenance of the genealogical office as a branch of the National Library. The continuance of that link also permits the genealogical office to access the library's administrative resources, obviating the need to provide additional staff and resources were the office to be established as a separate entity.

I am not aware of any difficulties with section 13 of the legislation. Few provisions in our legislation or anywhere else in the world might not be the target of legal challenge. There are cynics who feel that, if one pays enough, one can get any legal opinion.

Sport and Recreational Development.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

150 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his plans to initiate a nationwide audit of sports facilities, as outlined in the programme for Government. [25500/04]

Joe Sherlock

Question:

171 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the national audit of local sports facilities as envisaged in the programme for Government has been completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25428/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150 and 171 together.

The Government has committed itself under An Agreed Programme for Government to complete a national audit of local sports facilities and to put in place a long-term strategic plan to ensure the development of such necessary facilities. The first step in meeting that commitment was the undertaking of the sports capital programme expenditure review. It has emerged in the process of carrying out that review, which is being finalised, that there is a clear need for the sports capital programme to operate in the context of a clearly defined strategy for the provision of sports facilities and for such a strategy to be informed by a national audit of sports facilities. The substantial investment in the provision of sports facilities in the period 1998 to 2004 has made a significant contribution towards meeting the urgent need for such facilities caused by the absence of investment in earlier years.

Given the significant overlap between my Department and other Departments and bodies engaged in sports facility provision, it is my intention to set up an inter-agency steering group to oversee the development of such a strategy. One of the first challenges facing the group will be to oversee the commencement of a national audit of sports facilities. Given the time and effort envisaged in completing such a task and the limited resources available, it may be necessary to focus initial efforts on specific sports facility types or on major sports facilities. That matter will be decided by the steering group but may be determined in part by an initial examination of the level of information already available on sports facilities and how effectively information can be obtained for certain facility types over and above others.

It could take several years to complete a comprehensive audit of all sports facilities. However, it may be possible to conduct the work in stages to ensure that some useful results are available in the short term for input into the proposed strategic plan for the provision of sports facilities due for completion within the next year. That is also supported by the potential use of such information, which leans towards being more effective in helping decision-making at regional and national level as opposed to decisions at local level. However, arrangements for the commencement of the audit are now being put in place, and I expect that the commitment outlined in the agreed programme for Government will be met within the lifetime of this Government.

I found the Minister's answer difficult to understand. The commitment in the programme for Government is quite simple, namely, that the Government would undertake an audit of sports facilities. The answer that the Minister has just given is that such an audit has not commenced, that arrangements are in place to commence it, and that, if the audit takes place, it may take several years. I query several of those claims, since an audit is quite a simple exercise that could be done quite easily and should have been done by now.

If what the Minister is saying is true, why was such a commitment given? Surely, if we are to advance the idea of participation in sport, with its benefits for the health of the citizens and children of this nation, as well as having a general policy that sports participation is a desirable public policy goal, the Government should have initiated such an audit and have completed it by now. The Minister's answer left that even more vague. He said that arrangements were in place to commence the audit. We know nothing from that type of reply about when the arrangements to commence the audit will finish, when the audit will start, or when it will be completed. Given the nature of the commitment in the programme for Government and the fact that the question has already been asked of the Minister on several occasions, will he give any firm dates for when it will happen and if it can happen?

I remind Members that supplementary questions and answers are limited to one minute.

In my reply, I indicated to Deputy Boyle that the Government intended to fulfil its commitment set out in the programme for Government, and that is my intention. As I explained, it was decided as a first step, before the commencement of the audit, that there should be an assessment of what has been achieved under the Department's sports capital programme. That was done in the context of an expenditure review of the programme which seeks to assess the benefits that investment to date has yielded and identify any difficulties or inefficiencies associated with the operation of the programme.

I admit that the review was to have been completed in 2003 to facilitate commencement of the audit that year. However, it has taken longer than expected to complete because of the scale of the programme and the time required to analyse the volume of information and data collected during the review. That may be down to the success of the programme itself, since more than 4,500 projects under the sports capital programme alone have been grant aided to the tune of almost €350 million since 1998. However, I am informed by officials in the Department that the report of the review is expected to be available soon. When I receive it, we will commence the audit.

Deputy Boyle may feel that it is a simple and uncomplicated process, but that is not the case. In a much smaller jurisdiction, that of the North, it was estimated that it would take a minimum of two years to complete an audit.

I share Deputy Boyle's concerns about the time factor. I understood that the review was already in progress. If I understood the Minister correctly, he believes that some sections of the report could be initiated. If that is the case, local authorities can give information to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism on specific areas within their remit, such as large estates with no facilities. It is an ongoing concern that many social problems result from a lack of facilities in those areas. If that is the approach to be adopted when the Minister begins this audit, the initial approach should be to the local authorities to garner every piece of information on local authority estates and private estates. That is where many of these social problems arise.

Deputy Wall has made an important point. A number of local authorities and local sports partnerships are engaged in carrying out an inventory of sports facilities in their areas. We will closely monitor the methodologies, standards and parameters used by them. It is not yet clear how comprehensive or useful these local exercises will be but I have no doubt that they will be helpful to us.

To draw up terms of reference to identify modalities and methodologies to be adopted, we intend to establish a steering group to oversee the development of a new strategic plan and the carrying out of a national audit. It is also proposed that the Irish Sports Council, the Departments of Education and Science, Health and Children and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, with a local authority representative, would sit on the steering group. The possibility of the involvement of an external professional organisation to carry out the audit will also be considered. Matters are progressing. The work of the expenditure review group is well advanced. Some local authorities and local sports partnerships are carrying out work and that will probably be very useful. We will proceed to the audit at the earliest opportunity.

I remind the Minister that the County Kerry partnership group, before it was established as such, carried out an extensive audit of sports facilities in the country, particularly in schools. Such a project would be an ideal one for the network of post-primary schools and would be an ideal way of creating awareness among young people of the facilities available and the importance of having them available. There are 17 local sports partnerships and they would have the information readily available. There is no need for a full scientific overview and countrywide survey as the information is readily available without the need to employ expensive consultants.

As part of the audit, will the Minister publish a breakdown of the funding allocated on a county basis since the advent of the capital sports grant system funded by the national lottery? Does he agree that large numbers of the population, particularly in the greater Dublin area, have virtually no sports facilities? I am thinking of north-east and north-west Wicklow. They have made unsuccessful applications in recent years. Perhaps the Minister will update me on possible allocations for projects in north Wicklow.

The audit will represent a comprehensive body of work. It will enable policy-makers to map the locations of sports facilities countrywide, whether they are provided through voluntary sports organisations, funded privately or have benefited from public finances. We are not talking merely of the sports capital programme. We will probably all agree that a better fix on the location of existing sporting facilities will lead to more effective targeting of funding new facilities and more efficient use of financial resources. This would apply equally across all Departments involved in the provision of sports facilities, including the Department of Education and Science.

Since 1998, projects to the value of almost €351 million have been awarded under the sports capital programme alone. In addition to the facilities which have benefited under this programme, the audit will also seek to identify sports facilities provided by voluntary sports organisations and local authorities, as well as sports halls and facilities in schools and colleges which have benefited from grant assistance provided by the Department of Education and Science. The result of securing all this data and making it available in a user-friendly and accessible format will be a significant undertaking. Once the work begins, it cannot be expected to last less than two years because in the smaller jurisdiction of Northern Ireland it was estimated that the same task would take two years to complete.

I am committed to the completion of the audit and will try to ensure that the Government commitment as laid out in An Agreed Programme for Government is met during this Government's lifetime. The published details of funding provided under the sports capital programme on a county by county basis are available annually. The Department publishes the data and there is no great mystery to it. Regarding County Wicklow, no part of it has been ignored.

National Stadium.

Denis Naughten

Question:

151 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when the construction work will commence on the new stadium at Lansdowne Road; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25542/04]

John Gormley

Question:

158 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the efforts he is making to ensure that the soccer and rugby home international matches will not have to be played abroad; if he will facilitate a round table meeting between the FAI, the IRFU, the GAA and other interested parties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25508/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

166 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has had discussions with a view to the provision of stadium facilities for soccer or rugby during the reconstruction of Lansdowne Road, with particular reference to the forthcoming World Cup; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25514/04]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

187 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on recent statements by Uachtarán Cumann Lúthchleas Gael regarding the potential for using Croke Park by other sporting organisations in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25421/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

228 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position in regard to the provision of stadium facilities for all sports during the reconstruction of Lansdowne Road; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25819/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 151, 158, 166, 187 and 228 together.

As I indicated to Deputies in my previous replies on this subject, the provision of alternative facilities for the sports which will be affected by the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road stadium is a matter for both the IRFU and the FAI. I have little doubt but that contingency plans are being developed by both associations for the staging of international and other prestigious fixtures that in the normal course would have been hosted at Lansdowne Road. These plans must take account of current realities but I very much hope that an acceptable arrangement can be evolved which would obviate the necessity for playing these fixtures outside this jurisdiction.

The Lansdowne Road stadium redevelopment project will require closure of the existing stadium for some time. The construction phase of the redevelopment is expected to take 29 months and is scheduled to commence in mid-2006 and be completed by the end of 2008. I have consistently stated that the use of Croke Park by other organisations is a matter for the GAA to consider and decide and it would be counterproductive for me to attempt to intervene in the association's decision-making process. However, I welcome the positive views expressed by the President of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael regarding this issue. In the event that the sporting organisations involved saw a role for me in facilitating dialogue on the issue, I would be happy to be of assistance.

Regarding the commencement of work on the new stadium, I read in the media some time ago that there was a problem with the removal of asbestos from the two stands at the Lansdowne Road stadium. Will that pose a difficulty in commencing work? As we all know, numerous concerns were expressed by the residents. Have they been addressed? Is it envisaged that there will be objections to planning permission when the plans are submitted? When does the Minister expect those plans to be submitted?

I envisage no delay because of the removal of asbestos from any section of the Lansdowne Road stadium. I understand that part of the stadium is constructed of old corrugated iron and that is giving rise to the difficulty mentioned by Deputy Deenihan. I am assured that everything is being done to ensure that there is no risk to the health of any person, including the workers, and that no delay will ensue.

Regarding the construction of the stadium, it was intended that this year a steering group would be in place with a project manager, and that is now the position. The next phase involves the appointment of the design team, which I expect to be made early next year. The steering group, under the chairmanship of the Secretary General of my Department, continues to meet on a regular basis to monitor progress. I expect that the developed scheme will be prepared during next year and that the planning application will be lodged at that stage. I also expect that planning permission will be secured in 2006 and that the detailed design will be prepared and a tendering process opened. I anticipate that work will commence on the stadium in or around July 2006. I expect that construction will be in progress throughout 2007 and that it should be completed by the end of 2008.

It is important that the residents be kept informed of progress at all times. I understand that they are being kept informed of developments and that they will continue to meet those involved in the project to ensure that they are aware of what is happening. Whether there will be objections is a matter of conjecture. I hope that there will be no objections. If they are made, however, they will have to be dealt with. As Deputy Deenihan is aware, people have the right to object in certain circumstances. I sincerely hope that there will not be any objections and that we can proceed with the development.

Is the Minister willing to make a statement that the holding abroad of international sporting fixtures involving Irish teams should be avoided at all costs? Are there measures that he, as Minister, is willing to put in place to ensure that such an eventuality does not occur? Is he prepared to facilitate the holding of a round table meeting between the sporting organisations in need of a venue and the major sporting organisation that has an international class stadium available during the period in question? It would be of commercial benefit to the latter organisation if it were to make its stadium available for use.

As regards the residents concerns about the development of Lansdowne Road — which most people believe necessary and would like to see happen as soon as possible — does the Minister accept that his Department might have a role in expressing some reservations during the planning process, particularly in respect of proposals to eliminate or severely restrict the Dodder River walk? As Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, he should have a say in respect of this planning application in terms of the preservation of interesting features such as the walk which plays a major role in terms of providing public access to recreational and sporting facilities.

I will deal first with the question about the Dodder River. It is intended to provide an international size rugby pitch to the rear of the East Stand which will be used by the Wanderers and Lansdowne clubs. This development will require the use of a small strip of land along the Dodder River walkway. Dublin City Council has been approached with this request and is fully aware of what is involved. There will continue to be a Dodder walkway from Lansdowne Road to Bath Avenue. The existing amenity will not be taken away and, as part of the plans, it is intended to upgrade and improve the walkway.

I stated earlier that I would be deeply disappointed if international games involving the teams fielded by the FAI or the IRFU were played outside of the jurisdiction. Aside from the expense this would involve for travelling supporters, the question of national pride arises. The latter dictates that international games should be played on home soil and I hope this will be the position. I will do whatever I can to facilitate a resolution of the problems the IRFU and FAI will face between mid-2006 and the end of 2008. As indicated earlier, however, it is not my function to interfere with the inner workings of any sporting organisation. Such organisations can make or change their own rules.

Am I correct in stating that the complex, incorporating the stadium and, to the rear thereof, the international size rugby pitch to which the Minister referred, will be completely dedicated to sport and will not involve a commercial aspect such as the building of office blocks or anything of that nature?

Deputy Wall is correct. The complex will only be used for sporting purposes.

Given that there is a deadline as regards the arrangements the FAI and the IRFU will be obliged to make to procure stadia in the UK for away matches, is there any way the Minister can intervene? While he has stated on many occasions that he respects the autonomy of the GAA to decide on issues affecting it, unless rule 42 is on the agenda for congress, nothing will happen before 2006 when the IRFU and the FAI will be obliged to arrange the use of stadia in which to hold international matches. Is the Minister in a position to appeal to the GAA to ensure that the rule will be placed on the agenda for congress in 2005?

It is a question for the GAA to decide if it is going to decide the issue at congress in 2005. The president of the GAA has given positive indications as regards his wishes. I welcome his comments but it would be counterproductive if I were to issue or extend any appeal to the GAA. I specifically announced in recent weeks that the €40 million issued to the GAA in respect of Croke Park was given free of any conditions. I reiterate that now.

Aside from the expense involved for members of the public travelling abroad for home games and the issue of national pride and the effect thereon of playing international games outside the jurisdiction, it should be remembered that a report commissioned by the IRFU found that the revenues generated in the Dublin area as a result of the Ireland-England rugby game in March 2003 were in the region of €52 million. I accept the sense behind what Deputy Deenihan is saying and I understand his point. However, perhaps he more than anyone else in the House understands that the GAA has its own rules and makes its own decisions. I am happy to allow it to proceed in that way.

The Minister may have misunderstood what I said on this matter earlier. When he held discussions with the FAI and the IRFU, did those organisations indicate that they would make proposals or suggestions to the GAA in respect of obtaining the use of Croke Park? I fully understand the positionvis-à-vis rule 42. Leaving that aside, however, have formal or informal representations been made by either organisation to the GAA regarding the possible use of Croke Park?

I am not aware of any approaches, formal or informal, by the IRFU or the FAI to the GAA in respect of Croke Park. The negotiations I held with the FAI and the IRFU related to the construction of a new stadium at Lansdowne Road. They are delighted to join with us in the construction of that stadium. I welcome that the GAA stated that it would be interested in using the new stadium at Lansdowne Road because the pitch will be of sufficient size to accommodate Gaelic games. There comes a point when every actor must bow and leave the stage, and I have just reached it.

Proposed Legislation.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

152 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has legislative plans for the current Dáil session; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25434/04]

It is my intention to publish the national sports campus development authority Bill 2004 at an early date. A stamped draft of the Bill has been received from the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government and the views of Departments have been obtained. The text of the Bill will be brought to Government shortly for approval to publish and circulate the Bill, either late in the current Dáil session or early next year.

The Bill provides for the establishment of the national sports campus development authority to oversee the planning and development of a sports campus at Abbotsown. The authority's specific functions, which are set out in section 7, reflect the Government's decision of 27 January 2004. These functions are to develop a sports campus on the site; furnish and equip it; manage, operate and maintain it; and encourage and promote its use by professional and amateur sports people and members of the public. A development plan for the campus must be submitted for approval by the Government before commencement.

In addition, I intend to bring a number of statutory instruments before each House of the Oireachtas to give effect from 1 January next to the establishment of the new statutory boards of the National Library and National Museum of Ireland under the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997. This action will be subject to availability of the necessary financial and human resources involved in giving the two institutions autonomous status.

Will the Bill provide for an indoor arena at Abbotstown? I have asked the Minister questions previously regarding provision in Abbotstown for minority sports which do not attract sufficient numbers to generate the finance needed to create facilities. Many sports enjoyed by small numbers of people compared to national sports lack proper facilities. The proposed sports campus could provide facilities for such sports. Does the Minister envisage that sports with limited participation, which, through lack of numbers and so forth, are unable to generate finance to create facilities, will be facilitated in Abbotstown?

The Bill will set out the functions of the national sports campus development authority as opposed to the minutiae of what will be located at Abbotstown. The authority's functions will be to develop a sports campus on site; furnish, equip and manage it; operate and maintain it; and encourage and promote its use by professional and amateur sports people and members of the public. A development plan must be submitted for approval to the Government. In addition, details of each phase must be submitted for approval before its commencement. We will have an opportunity to discuss the legislation at a later date.

In the interim, as I stated previously, when a decision was made to construct a stadium at Lansdowne Road it was also decided that the campus at Abbotstown would proceed on a phased basis. In that respect, I spoke with Campus Stadium Ireland and asked it to draw up a priority list of what it considered should be located at Abbotstown and cost its proposals. I hope it will be possible to proceed with the first phase of the sports campus at Abbotstown in the not too distant future.

With regard to the sports which will be accommodated at Abbotstown, I fully agree with Deputy Wall that minority sports could be assisted through the development of the sports campus at Abbotstown and that they should be catered for. I have no doubt this will be the case.

With regard to the indoor arena to which the Deputy referred, this may be a candidate for a public private partnership and there is a strong possibility it will be commercially viable. The issue may be examined in that context. In the meanwhile, the main objective is to try to advance the campus by acquiring funding.

The current operators of the national aquatic centre are concerned about the lack of accommodation on site. They believe the lack of accommodation on the campus and in the surrounding area is a significant drawback to hosting major international competitions and facilitating athletes from home and abroad. Are plans afoot to provide accommodation on the site at Abbotstown? Apart from the provision of sporting facilities, does the scheme outlined by the Minister include provision for accommodation?

I do not yet have on my desk the detailed plan of Campus Stadium Ireland. I anticipate that in addition to providing sporting facilities on the campus, the plan will envisage medical and other facilities which may well include accommodation. I cannot be definitive on this matter other than to note that Campus Stadium Ireland was asked to consider all the options and requirements and to prioritise and cost them.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.