6. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the progress that has been made in developing Spike Island as a tourist attraction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46977/13]
Vol. 820 No. 1
6. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the progress that has been made in developing Spike Island as a tourist attraction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46977/13]
10. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the actions being taken to promote and develop the tourism potential of Spike Island and the Cork Harbour area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46978/13]
I ask these questions in light of the recent welcome decision by Fáilte Ireland to approve the application by Cork County Council for funding for the Fortress Spike Island project. As the Minister of State is aware, the island is in Cork Harbour. There are three strands to the project: the military history of Spike Island and the Cork Harbour defence, the prison life and transportation stories and an artillery and military equipment display. I am interested in the plans to develop this fantastic resource in the centre of Cork Harbour.
I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 and 10 together.
While my Department provides capital funding for investment in tourism product development through Fáilte Ireland, it is not directly involved in the development and promotion of tourism attractions. However, I am informed that the board of Fáilte Ireland recently approved a grant of €2.5 million to Cork County Council for the development of the Fortress Spike Island experience.
The Fortress Spike Island project is to be developed around three principal themes - military heritage, penal heritage, and stories of enforced transportation. These themes will allow visitors to get a real sense of the place of Spike Island in Irish history and indeed the wider history of the British Empire and the world. These are also areas in which there is strong interest, both in Ireland and overseas, especially Great Britain. It also resonates with the decade of centenaries that we have now entered on the island of Ireland. I am informed that the council presented a detailed market assessment indicating that the proposed development on Spike Island will have a broad appeal across many international tourism market segments.
I also understand that Cork County Council placed its application for funding in the context of the interpretive framework for Cork city and harbour, which was commissioned by Fáilte Ireland to guide the tourism development of the area. That will place Spike Island as part of the wider effort to maximise the tourism potential of Cork and its harbour in coming years, which the tourism agencies will continue to support directly and indirectly. I look forward to the completion of the Fortress Spike Island experience, which will play a key part in the development of tourism in the Cork city and harbour area in the coming years.
I thank the Minister of State for his positive reply and for the assistance and support he has given to this important project for Cork Harbour and the region. I have three short supplementary questions and I would appreciate it if you will allow me to come in later after the Minister of State's response, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. As the Minister of State indicated, we are now within the decade of centenaries and next year we will commemorate the start of the Great War, which took place from 1914 to 1918. Would the Minister of State consider asking Cork County Council and Fáilte Ireland to jointly organise a series of events and a conference to highlight the role played by Spike Island and Cork Harbour in the Great War? Would he also consider asking Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland to arrange for public advertising and television documentaries that could be shown in Britain and elsewhere to highlight the significant role played by Irish people in the Great War and to encourage British tourists to come and visit the many military sites constructed by the British, including Spike Island in particular?
I recently read about Spike Island and the thousands of people who died there. The activities that went on were amazing, but they have been air-brushed out of history. The Great War is a huge historical event and it is justifiable that it should be commemorated now.
There has always been a great interest in all aspects of history in this country. People come here to find out about matters of historical interest. We will deal with the positives first. A project worth €2.5 million in Cork Harbour is a welcome development that will add to the tourism product in the Cork area. In addition, the Wild Atlantic Way in Kinsale and west Cork will make Cork a major tourism attraction.
I have no difficulty asking Fáilte Ireland to talk with Cork County Council, because local authorities and Fáilte Ireland should work together. Every council in this country should have a tourism remit, because that is the way forward and that is an area in which we will create jobs. I have no difficulty asking Fáilte Ireland and Cork County Council to see whether they can work out a plan for next year.
I am sure the Minister is aware that more than 40,000 people were transported to Australia and Tasmania up to 1893. A significant number of those so-called convicts were transported through Spike Island and Cork Harbour. Would the Minister of State consider the construction of a national memorial on Spike Island and also to arrange for a similar memorial to be constructed in Australia? That would strengthen the links between Ireland and Australia and recognise the significant role Irish immigrants played in Australian life. Spike Island was the largest prison ever built in Britain and Ireland. At its peak, 2,300 felons were held there. It is really important to make the linkage for tourism and other reasons now that Spike Island is being developed.
A memorial would be a matter for the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Deenihan, and I advise Deputy Stanton to raise the matter with him. I am aware of the military and penal heritage of Spike Island and its transportation history. Everyone in the country knows that Spike Island was a prison. IRA prisoners, among others, were incarcerated there. The island has a major history. I wish to see the €2.5 million being spent and the project being developed. The project will add to the tourism product available in Cork, particularly in the harbour area.
As Deputy Stanton is aware, it took a long time to put the plan together. The plan had to go back to Fáilte Ireland for a second time. I hope the project can be brought to fruition with the funding provided by the county council and the Leader programme. It will be a great addition to the tourism product. I look forward to the development and I hope it will become one of the major tourism attractions in the Cork area, particularly in the harbour area. Having a water amenity such as the harbour is an asset to an area. I am pleased to see Cork using it.
I welcome the capital funding from Fáilte Ireland, which was a huge boost to the east Cork area. The history of the area is significant. There is potential to attract tens of thousands of visitors to the area each year. In order to be successful we must promote the development both domestically and internationally. What is being done in that regard and what category of tourist do we want to attract?
Is the Minister of State aware that 1 million Australian tourists visit the United Kingdom each year and that they spend more than £1 billion there? Does he agree that there is a major opportunity to highlight the connection between Spike Island and Tasmania in Australia and to link the areas?
Would the Minister of State consider arranging for the designation of the artillery and military equipment display in Spike Island as the national artillery and military equipment display? Does he not agree that this would be a fitting tribute to the role played by the Defence Forces, particularly in light of the centenary of the 1916 Rising in 2016?
Will the Minister of State consider bringing together three elements of his portfolio, namely ports, public transport and tourism, to establish a public water taxi system in Cork Harbour similar to the one operating successfully in other countries? Does he agree that this initiative could be the stimulus for the development of a significant tourism product in Cork Harbour that would demonstrate how joined-up, imaginative thinking could stimulate significant tourism growth in such a beautiful area? This is within his power. It would complement the great work being carried out by Cork county and city councils, Port of Cork, Fáilte Ireland, UCC and CIT. It would make Cork's harbour and city and Spike Island significant tourist destinations.
With regard to Deputy McLellan's point, people all over the world love to return to Ireland to check out its history and military heritage. It is a great tourism attraction.
On Deputy Stanton's question, I want to see the development built. The Deputy is quite correct that this could be discussed with Fáilte Ireland and the council. It would certainly be under the remit of the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan. Too many artefacts around the country are in storage in buildings in this city and elsewhere. I would like to see them on display such that they could be seen by the people. I would love to see historical artefacts pertaining to Cork brought there, just as artefacts found in Mayo have been brought to the museum in Castlebar where people from Mayo and all over the world can see them when they visit. The location in Cork was a military base and I would love to see it developed. The first step entails the €2.5 million, the Leader and county council money, and getting the development built. Thereafter, the council and Fáilte Ireland can discuss how it can be developed further. There is great potential.
7. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the initial difficulties of the new national driver licence service to operate effectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47149/13]
I seek the Minister's views on the difficulties associated with the national driver testing services and the difficulties experienced in many of the offices around the country. Will he make a statement on the matter?
I thank the Deputy for raising this important matter. Under the terms of the Road Safety Authority (Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness) Act 2012, the Road Safety Authority, RSA, became the national driver licensing authority as of January this year. With effect from 19 January, the new credit card-style plastic card driving licence was introduced in all EU member states, replacing existing paper licences. Between 19 January and 25 October, local authorities continued to provide customer services relating to driving licences on behalf of the RSA. On 29 October last, the RSA assumed full responsibility for the service. The RSA designed the new centralised driver licensing system around a central unit within the authority in Ballina and three outsourced contracts. The contracts include one for a front-office service which engages with the public, a second for a back-office service to process applications, and a third for the production of the plastic card licence. These contracts were awarded by the RSA following competitive procurement processes in which neither my Department nor I had any direct role.
Under the front-office contract, provided by SGS Ireland on behalf of the National Driver Licence Service, customer services are offered at 34 full-time centres and two part-time centres around the country. They are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. They remain open through lunchtime. This is a considerable improvement as the new opening hours are longer and more flexible than when the service was provided by the local authorities. Furthermore, people will be able to use any of the offices to apply for or renew their licence rather than having to attend at their own local authority office, as was the case previously. The new network provides services to 95% of the population within a 50 km radius.
The requirement to attend in person only occurs once, namely, when the person receives his first credit-card-style driver licence under this new system. On that occasion, the person’s image is captured through the SAFE 2 system and they have their identity verified in person. This is an important measure to prevent fraud. After attending once in person, people can renew their licence through the postal system and are not required to attend the centres in person again, when their licence needs to be renewed or updated.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
Under the new regime, there is a target to process driver licence applications within eight days. I understand that there were some teething issues with the launch of the new national driver licensing service on Tuesday, 29 October, that the RSA informs me have now been resolved.
There has been a high level of demand for the service since it opened. The RSA has advised me that a number of solutions have been put in place to address the earlier difficulties experienced. These include the assignment of additional staff, the rolling out of a further information campaign and the deployment of a manual booking system which applicants can avail of.
As I stated earlier in the week in response to a Topical Issue query on this subject, the move to a centralised driver licensing service is the right one in the longer term, and it will provide a better service to the public in addition to greater security and better value for money. While there have been teething troubles in the new system, I am satisfied that these are being dealt with quickly and effectively by the RSA.
I thank the Minister for his reply. Does he accept that there were difficulties at the very outset in regard to the service? Is he satisfied that those difficulties have been ironed out across the 34 centres that are open for business?
I accept that there were considerable difficulties, particularly in the first week, for a number of reasons. They were just teething problems. This is always the case with a new service. No matter how much testing one does on a computer system, the model is never the same as the one that applies in reality. There was a lot of demand. It was a half-term week so it was busier than expected. There was a backlog of applications that had not come through the local authorities. Extra staff are now in place. There is an informal booking arrangement in some local authority areas and there will be a more formalised booking arrangement in the next month.
I am not 100% satisfied that the issue is fully sorted. I met the interim CEO of the RSA to discuss this on Monday. This week, there were far fewer problems than arose in previous weeks. I am confident that any remaining issues can be ironed out in the next week or two.
Did the Minister say the local authorities have a formal or informal mechanism through which one can book?
It operates not through the local authority but through the new service. It will now be possible to book an appointment at a particular time, which means it will be less likely that people will have to queue.
If Deputies have long supplementary questions, I will not be able to take any more. Other Deputies want to ask their questions.
I will be very brief. I ask the Minister to examine the location of the centres again. I have raised this with him before. Let me refer to my part of the country, Limerick. Limerick is over 100 km from Tralee. While 95% of the population are within a 50 km radius, more than 250,000 are not. I ask that the locations be examined, perhaps with the option of having part-time ones. Could the Minister encourage the RSA to have mobile centres?
I wish to back up what Deputy O'Donovan just said. The headquarters of the RSA are in Mayo but there is not a centre in Ballina, for instance. Perhaps that could be examined. The bookings initiative is welcome because an initiative of that kind sorted out issues at the Passport Office a number of years ago. It would help in this instance also.
With regard to locations, it is important to bear in mind that the licences are licences for drivers. By and large, people with driving licences have access to a car even if they do not necessarily own one. Applying for the licence is something one has to do once in one's life, not every year or couple of months. Even people who live in remote rural areas drive to the cities or big towns more than once in their lives. The fact that they can now make an appointment means they can combine their journey with a shopping trip or hospital appointment, for example.
The system will have to be bedded down over the coming weeks. At that point, we will review it and determine whether it is necessary to have additional centres, mobile centres or part-time centres, particularly in areas where there is a geographical gap. I would like the system to be bedded down first. It is important to bear in mind that additional centres will come at an additional cost, which would have to be passed on to those applying for a driving licence.
8. Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will consider providing for the inclusion of local and social employment clauses in any future capital projects to be progressed by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46951/13]
241. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide for the use of social or local employment clauses in future capital projects under his Department’s remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47472/13]
In light of the stimulus programme worth €2.25 billion, what steps is the Department taking to ensure there are social and local employment clauses in any contracts issued, especially with the upcoming national sports centre development, the capital sports grants, roads building etc.?
I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 241 together.
My colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, who has overall responsibility for public procurement has advised the House that it has been decided to adopt a targeted approach to the inclusion of a social clause in public works contracts in the context of the Government's €2.25 billion stimulus programme. The public private partnership, PPP, element of the programme, at some €1.5 billion, will require an estimated workforce of 13,000. This offers an excellent opportunity to target the long-term unemployed. In order to avoid displacing existing workers, the focus will be on contracts where employers are likely to be hiring additional workers.
The National Development Finance Agency, NDFA, is leading the implementation of the measure, initially through the devolved schools programme which it is managing on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills. It has commenced tendering for a number of schools which will act as a pilot for the introduction of the social clause. In essence, the clause will require contractors to ensure 10% of the “person weeks” required to deliver the contract will be performed by individuals recruited from the ranks of the long-term unemployed and that 2.5% of the “person weeks” take the form of a registered scheme of apprenticeship or similar national training or educational work placement arrangement. The performance of the clause will be reviewed during the operation of the pilot and, subject to its satisfactory operation, included in the wider PPP programme.
Regarding the application of a social employment clause within my Department's capital programme, I am happy to announce that the National Roads Authority, NRA, which is responsible for the largest portion of the capital programme, intends to incorporate a social clause into the roads PPP programme. Specific projects envisaged are the N25 New Ross bypass PPP and the M11 Gorey-Enniscorthy PPP. The NRA will work closely with the NDFA and take account of the experience and results of the pilot programme under way. Depending on the success of the clause, there are other elements of my Department's capital programme which could adopt this approach, including the development of the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown, Blanchardstown.
I welcome the Minister's response and confirmation because the single greatest challenge for us is getting people off the long-term unemployment register and back to work. Every Department has a part to play in this task. One of the more notable successes of the Government is that the Department of Social Protection has moved away from just issuing cheques and is now heavily involved in labour activation measures. Every other Department must step up to the mark on that front, too. It is important, when Departments are spending their budgets, that they do so with a social conscience and target the long-term unemployed. I am delighted with the Minister's proactive approach to this issue and his Department's determination to assist the long-term unemployed by ensuring some of the billions it is spending are directed towards them. There is also a local element to this issue. Many of the projects cross several Departments, be they school building, road projects and so forth. A lot of those employed on such projects can travel from 20 counties away and it is hard to understand how this happens or justify it. I urge the Minister to place more emphasis on local employment iniitiatives, where possible.
I welcome the Deputy's comments. This is very positive news. The social clause will apply such that some people who are long-term unemployed will be employed on these contracts. The requirement to take on apprentices is also very positive and particularly important in the construction sector. However, we must always be aware of the law of unintended consequences. Many people who run small construction firms, particularly subcontractors, have between ten and 20 staff who move from job to job. We want to avoid a situation where they would have to lay people off to take people on just to satisfy the social clause. That is why we are going to move expeditiously but cautiously with these new arrangements.
Question No. 9 is in the name of Deputy Robert Troy who is not present. The next question tabled by a Deputy who is present in the Chamber is Question No. 11 which is in the name of Deputy Kieran O'Donnell.
Question No. 10 answered with Question No. 6.
11. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the provision of a diaspora centre as an iconic tourism attraction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46982/13]
47. Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the provision of a diaspora centre; and if his attention has been drawn to Dún Laoghaire Harbour Board's plans in this area. [46966/13]
237. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the provision of a Diaspora centre as an iconic tourism attraction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47468/13]
This question asks the Minister for his views on the development of an iconic diaspora centre as a tourism attraction in Limerick, which I represent. The Limerick local authorities and the Shannon Airport Authority are working on a joint bid. I would like the Minister to give an indication of the timeframe envisaged. It is my understanding that expressions of interest will be sought before the end of the year and a decision made by the middle of next year. I await the Minister's response.
I propose to take Questions Nos. 11, 47 and 237 together.
The Government’s infrastructure and capital investment framework 2012-16, published in November 2011, includes a commitment to support for a diaspora centre or museum, should a suitable project and partner be available. Accordingly, I asked Fáilte Ireland to carry out a scoping study of the development of such a centre and the most suitable means by which it could be financed, developed and managed. I received the outcome of the scoping study earlier this year. Following consideration of the appropriate next steps, I have decided that expressions of interest should be sought to establish if there is a suitable project and partner available to develop a diaspora centre.
My Department and Fáilte Ireland will be making the necessary arrangements for a call for expressions of interest along these lines in the near future. Aside from detailing their proposals, applicants will be asked to present a funding model to build and operate and to indicate the level of State support they would need. In this context, I am aware of a number of prospective projects across the country for which proposals are at various stages of development. A number of interested parties, including Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company and the Limerick diaspora group, were consulted as part of the scoping study. It will, of course, be a matter for those advancing the proposals to consider whether and on what basis they might respond to the forthcoming request for expressions of interest.
On the question of the timeframe envisaged, I do not have it exactly tied down, but the Deputy's estimation is in the right ball park.
I thank the Minister for his response. It is welcome that he expects the Department to seek expressions of interest by the end of the year and that a decision will be made on the location of a national diaspora centre by the middle of next year. Limerick will be the city of culture in 2014 and is ideally located, with Shannon Airport on its doorstep. The fact that a formidable joint bid is being made by the Limerick local authorities and the Shannon Airport Authority augurs well. Furthermore, this is about bringing tourists to Ireland. The fact that Limerick will be the city of culture in 2014 makes this an ideal legacy project for the city and would showcase it for Ireland Inc. What does the Minister envisage will be required of those submitting expressions of interest? How will the Department's specific requirements be relayed to the various bodies involved?
The scoping study is very interesting and shows a broad range of options. It envisages a building of 6,000 sq. m, half of which would be visitor space, and visitor numbers of 300,000 per year. It estimates that the cost of delivering the facility could be between €20 million and €30 million for a new building, €13 million to €25 million for an existing building or €5 million to €15 million for an existing institution. Needless to say, that is not the kind of capital I have available in my budget; therefore, we will be asking interested parties to state how they would raise most, if not all, of this money. In terms of location, the scoping study advises that the centre should be near a large population centre, have a high concentration of tourists and good transport connections. It should also ideally but not necessarily be near the sea, given our history of emigration. There should be supporting attractions nearby such as cafés, bars, shops and other facilities.
I thank the Minister for answering my question. I listened closely to what he said about good transport links and so forth and assure him that Dún Laoghaoire ticks all of the boxes on his list. He made reference to funding and various other aspects of the project, but he has not made any reference to the historical context of such a centre. Dún Laoghaoire would be the strongest contender in that context, given that millions of Irish people left from Carlisle Pier for England, America, Australia and many other parts of the world. Will the historical context be taken into consideration?
Yes, it will be. That is one of the five points to which I referred. Point No. 4 refers to the sea, given the history of emigration from Ireland by sea, although these days people emigrate by air. There are a lot of very good ideas and I do not have a favourite. The committee established to make a decision will have to do so independently. A key aspect will be the capacity of any proposed project to bring capital to the table and also the capacity to be able to operate on a break-even basis within a few years. Most big attractions can do so with some help in the first few years.
Does the Minister envisage that he will be appointing consultants to oversee this project? Has he an idea of the number of expressions of interest he will be looking for from various groups? The Limerick diaspora group, of which I am a member, has met with the Minister and his officials. Will he give us a further flavour of the process and how it will work?
I am reluctant to answer that question because I do not know the answer yet. We did appoint consultants to do a scoping study. However, I do not want to appoint too many consultants to do everything. There have been a dozen different proposals, some very advanced and considered, others little more than just a bright idea in PowerPoint. The next step is to call for expressions of interest, detail what we are looking for from the different groups and, subsequently, make a decision.
As Deputy McLellan is not present, Questions Nos. 12 and 13 will be taken with Written Answers.
14. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he will invite applications for the next round of the sports capital programme; if there will be changes to the terms and conditions of the programme and the application process from the last round; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46976/13]
18. Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he expects to invite applications for the next round of the sports capital programme; if there will be changes to the terms and conditions of the programme; the application process from the last round; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47060/13]
32. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he expects to invite applications for the next round of the sports capital programme and if there will be changes to the terms and conditions of the programme and the application process from the last round; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46981/13]
41. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he expects to invite applications for the next round of the sports capital programme; and if there will be changes to the terms and conditions of the programme and the application process from the last round. [46899/13]
44. Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when applications will be accepted for the next round of the sports capital programme; and if there will be any changes to the terms and conditions of the programme and the application process from the previous round. [46852/13]
45. Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he will invite applications for the next round of the sports capital programme; if there will be changes to the terms and conditions of the programme and the application process from the last round; if special consideration will be given to those applications which were unsuccessful in the last round; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46980/13]
46. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he will invite applications for the next round of the sports capital programme; if there will be changes to the terms and conditions of the programme and the application process from the last round; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46970/13]
49. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he expects to seek applications for the next round of the sports capital programme; if there will be any changes to the terms and conditions to the previous programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46974/13]
We all know of last year’s fantastic success of the sports capital grant programme. No doubt, the Minister could have had three times the moneys involved but it still would not have covered all the applications. I welcome the Department’s decision in the budget to release another round of grants this year. Does the Minister see any changes to the application process this time? When should applications be in and decisions made on them?
I propose to take Questions Nos. 14, 18, 32, 41, 44 to 46, inclusive, and 49 together.
I welcome the decision to provide funding for a new round of the sports capital programme, SCP. It demonstrates this Government's understanding of the value of sport from both an economic and health perspective. Sports capital funding is essential for the provision of modern fit-for-purpose facilities that provide opportunities for people to participate in sporting activities across the country. The 2012 round of the SCP saw a record number of applicants, indicating a continuing high demand for such grants.
Departmental officials are working on the details of the new programme, including any changes to the terms and conditions. I hope to be in a position to make an announcement before the end of the year.
My Department has developed a new portal on the Department's website which must be used by organisations to register, to apply for funding, when the programme is open for applications, and to manage the drawdown of any new grants allocated after 2013. The portal also has a growing knowledge base of information on all aspects of the SCP. Any interested organisation should register on www.sportscapitalprogramme.ie.
I welcome the Minister’s reply. From the last round of grants, one issue that arose came from clubs whose applications were deemed invalid. Is there any way the Department could streamline the system to help organisations to get their applications in completed and on time? As the Minister knows, there is never enough money to give out. There are clubs up and down the country which want to get access to this funding. It is important when a club is putting together an application, it is done in way that it has the best opportunity to gain access to the funding.
I thank Deputy Connaughton for his comments. This time around there will be changes to the application process. As I said earlier, a new website has been set up. Any club intending to make an application should now register on it. We are looking at the last round to see how the process can be improved. In the last round there were 2,171 applications. We are now trying to streamline it. The difficulty that arose was for those clubs whose applications were deemed invalid. We are hoping with this round that, through this new website, we might be able to tell those clubs if their applications are invalid earlier and not to progress with it.
This is the second round of the grants in the lifetime of this Government in very difficult economic times. I compliment my senior Minister and everyone in the Department. We are delighted we got the funding again. We are hoping to have the application process open by the end of the year.
I thank the Minister for his reply to Deputy Connaughton’s question. I compliment both Ministers present for bringing around a second round of sports capital grants. In these particular times, it is terrific we are able to invest in sport in our local communities. The last round was a success albeit there were some teething issues. All applicants in Dublin city and county were successful which is extraordinary considering the number of applicants as outlined by the Minister.
I am pleased there is a second round. I know many of my colleagues were eager to notify their local clubs about this which I have done already. It is just a matter now of making sure the process is bulletproof, as robust as possible and as clear and simple as possible. This will ensure when clubs apply online that they will be 100% certain their application is valid before it gets to decision-making time which is where the problem was with the first round.
I welcome the provision of funding for this new round of sports capital grants. The confirmation is very timely.
In time for the local elections next summer.
It is but Deputy Dooley will appreciate that County Clare got eight hurling players on the All Stars team which was announced earlier this morning. I congratulate them for this achievement. It demonstrates the value the Government places on sports. The Clare victory in this year’s All-Ireland hurling final gave the county’s people and economy a huge lift.
Does the Minister intend to change the terms and conditions of the second round of sports grants? When will it be launched? The last scheme had a standard per county grant as well as a regional grant. Will the Minister confirm if this will be the same again this year?
Deputy Farrell is correct about the applications from Dublin because of invalid applications, every valid application naturally succeeded. It was an unusual situation. This time we will make it easier for applications. These are voluntary groups so we want to assist them to make the best applications. The last time we put dedicated officials on three or four different counties for organisations to contact.
It was probably confined to Mayo people.
This time these details will be available on the website. We will make it as easy and as fair as we can.
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Deputy Joe Carey on Clare on winning the All-Ireland hurling final, my colleagues here on Dublin winning the All-Ireland football final, my other colleagues on Sligo Rovers winning the FAI cup and the Department’s Secretary General on St. Patrick’s Athletic winning the FAI league,
There will be some changes to the application process but we have not decided on them yet. We want to get the second round announced as soon as possible. We will make it easier as we learned from the previous round. My staff in Killarney will be there to assist applicant clubs in any way they can.
I do not want to rain on the Minister of State's parade in terms of the allocation of the funding. While it is welcome, it comes from the national lottery so it depends on people playing it every week and the Government will be selling the licence in the future. It is wrong we do not have an annualised sports capital programme. I welcome the fact the Minister argued for a second round this year. However, it is deeply unfair the way the Department of Finance takes moneys from the national lottery, which was set up for funding sport, elements of education and certain provisions in the health service, as some form of general taxation.
That is wrong, and I hope the Minister wins the battle to ensure the moneys generated through the national lottery are provided for sport on an annual basis. The level of funding that went into sports capital projects, particularly in County Clare, has enhanced the capacity of teams to perform at the level they need to in this environment.
Do not forget north Dublin, though.
I also welcome the sports capital grants. I am trying to figure it out. The national lottery is where we normally got funding for sports projects, but it is being sold off and so much is going to maintenance, construction and road capital projects as well as sports. Will there be an initial surge in capital grants for sports as a result of that sale and how much money is planned to go to sports? Have we safeguarded the national lottery in terms of continuously giving proper returns so we can put them towards the sports organisations?
When does the Minister expect the money to be allocated? How much does he think will be allocated? Some say the allocation was successful last time. It was for some, but most of the money in Wexford went to a privileged few. This time, would it be possible for people to find out if their applications are not as perfect as they should be, which would give them a second chance to rectify any inadequacies? Last time they found out afterwards. It looked as though it was possible for anybody to be refused. The application was very technical and it was almost impossible to tick every box perfectly. This allowed some cherry-picking as to who received it.
I listened attentively to all the stories of sporting success in counties Sligo, Clare and Dublin. It is important not to leave out Jason Quigley's success in Donegal and the Minister's commitment to boxing. He is an advocate for the lesser sports that have not been up there in the national media as much over the years. I compliment him on that. In light of his strong reputation and communication with local authorities and my own local authority, does he see a role for the county council officials to work with his officials in assisting smaller clubs that do not have expertise in making applications or money for consultants to make applications?
I agree with Deputy Dooley. The Minister for Finance takes that money in and there is no such thing as national lottery money any more. Like every other Department we must go to the Department of Finance and fight for our budget. Deputy Dooley is correct. That is why the national lottery was established. It is being sold, but I hope we receive a substantial amount of that money for sports capital funding. We do not know yet what funding we will receive for sports capital projects. We will determine that with the Estimates in the next number of weeks.
We received 2,171 applications and we had €26 million for local schemes and €5 million for regional schemes, so we were never going to satisfy everybody. The one thing I am proud of is that for the first time ever we did it on a pro rata basis so that every county got its fair share of this funding. Deputy McHugh is correct; however, I do not see a role for local authorities. I would love if every Deputy could come in and pick what they wanted, but that will not happen.
I thought that was what the Minister did last year.
The Irish Sports Council, the local sports partnerships and the Deputies would all like to allocate the money, but the Department will do it and we will do it as fairly as we did last time. No matter what we do, we cannot satisfy every group.
Deputy McHugh is correct about boxing, which has enjoyed great success over the last few years. We gave boxing €1.2 million two years ago and €1 million this year to go down to grassroots boxing, and as Minister I am very proud of that. That is why boxing is progressing so well, and those involved deserve it because they have worked so hard. They bring in young people and take them off the streets and I compliment them on the job they do. I am delighted with that scheme.
We assisted the local authority swimming pool scheme and worked with the local authorities on multi-use games areas. Since we came into office we have spread the money. We have worked with communities, local authorities and State agencies. The good news is that we will have a second round. I agree with Deputy Dooley that the national lottery funding for sports and arts should have been left in place. We had no round of funding from 2008 to last year. This will be the second round in the lifetime of this Government.