I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I am pleased to introduce the Sport Ireland Bill 2014. The purpose of the Bill is to establish Sport Ireland, a new body which will replace the Irish Sports Council and the National Sports Campus Development Authority. The merger of the council and the authority is one of the measures in the Government's programme for the rationalisation of State agencies.
Sport Ireland will take on the functions of the council and the authority. It will continue the work currently being done by the council in promoting, developing and co-ordinating sport in Ireland and also the work of the authority in developing the National Sports Campus at Abbotstown. Both of these organisations are delivering important outcomes for sport and I am confident this will continue under the new structure.
As Minister of State with responsibility for sport, I am very aware of how important sport is in the lives of Irish people, both socially and from a health point of view. I strongly believe that sport has great potential to contribute to a much healthier society. We, in Government, are fully aware that we must continue to promote sport and physical activity and to support our sporting organisations. We must also try to provide the best sporting facilities we can, not just for our elite sportsmen and women but for people of all ages and all abilities.
I am pleased to say that we have been able to do a lot for sport in recent years. We have maintained Government funding for sport as much as possible to ensure the continued development of sport. The budget for sport this year is €95 million, an increase of 28% on 2013. This includes additional funding of €11.5 million under the Government stimulus plan for the sports capital programme and €13 million towards the development of the indoor arena at the National Sports Campus. This is a very significant investment in Irish sport and is a strong indication of our commitment to sport.
I am sure that Deputies will join me in acknowledging the value and role of the sports capital programme. More than 9,100 projects have now benefited from sports capital funding since 1998, bringing the total allocations in that time to over €820.5 million. Deputies will have first-hand experience of how the programme has transformed the sporting landscape of Ireland with improvements in the quality and quantity of sporting facilities in virtually every village, town and city in the country. These facilities range from the smallest clubs to national centres of sporting excellence.
One of the key features of the sports capital programme is that it helps to take some of the pressure off sporting organisations by providing much needed finance to assist in the completion of projects. We were delighted to make allocations of €31 million under the 2012 round of the sports capital programme.
This was the first round of the programme since 2008. We were also delighted to be able to make changes to the programme in 2012 to make it accessible to more clubs and organisations than ever before. The record number of 2,170 applications in 2012 showed that the 2012 round of the programme was much needed. With such high demand, it was never going to be possible to fund all applications. I was pleased, therefore, that we were able to press ahead with a new round of the sports capital programme in 2014. This was great news for sports clubs across the country. A total of €40.5 million was allocated under the 2014 programme. A total of 2,036 applications were received, the second highest number ever received, which shows the continuing demand and need for investment in sporting facilities. A total of 821 of the successful allocations were for local sports clubs and organisations, with the remaining 59 allocated to regional or national projects.
While funding to the Irish Sports Council has had to be reduced over recent years, we managed to offset this as much as possible and to keep the reduction as low as possible. The council received €42.5 million in funding this year and I am hopeful this can be maintained for 2015. The focus of the spending this year is on increasing participation in sport and physical activity, which is one of the key objectives of my Department. In this context, I acknowledge the huge efforts of the Irish Sports Council, the local sports partnerships and the national governing bodies in encouraging greater participation in sport. This important work has paid off, as can be seen in the most recent figures from the Irish Sports Monitor report for the first half of 2013 which show that participation has increased from 45% in 2011 to 47% in 2013. This is a great result and we will continue working to increase this figure further.
Since it was established in 1999, the Irish Sports Council has played a very important part in the development of Irish sport at all levels. We are lucky to have a host of very talented sportsmen and sportswomen in Ireland. The structures put in place over the years to support our elite athletes have helped them to reach the top levels across a wide range of sports. Last year, Irish athletes won a record 67 medals in international competition at junior and elite levels. This is a huge increase from the 16 won in 2008 and a remarkable achievement over five years which reflects the excellent work that is being done for high-performance sport in Ireland. Although it was established more recently, the National Sports Campus Development Authority has made a major contribution to Irish sport through the development of world-class training facilities at the National Sports Campus. The campus has seen very significant progress in the last several years. We now have facilities in which our elite athletes can prepare for international competitions. New facilities opened in the past year include a world-class national horse sport arena, a national modern pentathlon centre, a national diving training centre and a multi-sport synthetic pitch facility. On-site accommodation has also been developed to allow athletes to live and train on campus.
The Irish Institute of Sport is based on the campus at Abbotstown. In 2013, 185 athletes from 20 sports drew down expert services and support, including Fionnuala Britton, who has won gold medals at the European Cross Country Championships among many other great performances. The list of other athletes like Ms Britton is a long one. Beneficiaries include Ireland's sailors, including Annalise Murphy who recently qualified for Rio, the Irish high performance boxing squad, the Irish equestrian team which did so well at the recent World Equestrian Games and the highly successful Paralympic team. They are all supported by the council's high-performance plan, which includes coaching, training camps, competition and other services and can access a range of excellent campus facilities. We now see Irish elite athletes happy to base themselves at home because they are supported by a world-class and distinctly Irish system at the National Sports Campus. This is a major departure from days when athletes chose to leave our shores if they wanted a real chance of succeeding at the top level internationally.
This year will see more significant developments at campus, including the commencement of work on the national indoor arena, which the Government is funding from the proceeds of the sale of the National Lottery licence. Work will also commence shortly on a high performance training centre at the Institute of Sport. The FAI and the GAA are also progressing the development of pitches for their sports. I am confident that it will be possible to maintain this momentum and develop more facilities in the coming years.
One of my other priorities for sport in the coming months is the development of a national sport policy. This document is designed to get all Government Departments working together on sport and it will set out the policy framework for sport Ireland. Another issue that I intend to examine over the coming period is the proposed regulation of the adventure activities sector. The Irish Sports Council recently submitted a report to me, which I will be considering.
It is important for me to place on record my thanks to the Irish Sports Council, the National Sports Campus Development Authority and the national governing bodies for the efforts they are making every day on behalf of Irish sport. I must also mention the volunteers who are a vital part of every club and sporting organisation around the country and who are doing wonderful work for sport in their communities.
I will now turn to the main provisions in the Bill. The Bill includes the provisions necessary for establishing sport Ireland and dissolving the council and the authority. Many of the provisions are standard provisions for establishing a new body. It also combines the relevant provisions from the Irish Sports Council Act 1999 and the National Sports Campus Development Authority Act 2006. The Bill is divided into four Parts and contains 45 sections. Part 1, covering sections 1 to 4, deals with standard provisions regarding the legislation. Part 2, covering section 5 to 28, provides for the establishment and functions of Sport Ireland.
The functions of Sport Ireland are set out in section 7. These functions are broadly in line with the functions currently performed by the council and the authority. I will mention some of the main features. Sport Ireland will have responsibility for developing strategies for increasing participation in sport at national and local level. It will also have responsibility for supporting our elite athletes in achieving excellence in sport. This reflects the work of the Irish Institute of Sport. A new function is included in this section to reflect the role of Coaching Ireland in developing coaches and tutors at all levels in sport. Sport Ireland will continue the development of the sports campus. It will manage, operate and maintain the campus, along with any other facilities that may be approved by the Minister.
Overall responsibility for the research function, which was the responsibility of the Irish Sports Council, will revert to my Department. The programme for Government states that policy making will revert to Departments, while agencies will be accountable for implementing policy. As research is a key tool in policy making, responsibility for the function is being brought back into my Department. While the Minister will set direction, sport Ireland will be conducting the research. I intend to introduce a process whereby my Department and Sport Ireland will work together to set out plans for what research will be conducted each year. Sport Ireland will also have responsibility for anti-doping. I will deal with that subject later.
The provision of grants and other assistance to national governing bodies of sport and athletes will also come under the remit of sport Ireland. This will be similar to the role that the Irish Sports Council now plays in allocating funding. Responsibility for the sports capital programme will remain with my Department. Many of the other sections in this Part of the Bill are standard provisions. They cover matters such as engagement of consultants, strategy statements, annual reports, accounts and service agreements. Sections 18 to 20 relate to sport Ireland's responsibility for the development of the National Sports Campus. Section 19 allows Sport Ireland to establish subsidiaries and to enter into joint ventures and partnerships. It also provides that the subsidiary company established by the authority to operate the National Aquatic Centre and other facilities will continue as a subsidiary of sport Ireland. Section 21 provides that the first chief executive will be appointed by the Minister. The board of sport Ireland will appoint subsequent CEOs. The CEO will have responsibility for carrying on, managing and controlling the administration and business of sport Ireland. Section 22 provides that the CEO will be accountable to Oireachtas committees, including the Committee of Public Accounts.
Section 28 provides that sport Ireland will continue the development of the National Sports Campus in accordance with the plan prepared by the authority. It allows sport Ireland to amend the plan and provides that any amended plan must be submitted for the approval of the Minister.
Part 3, covering sections 29 to 39, inclusive, deals with the dissolution of the council and the authority. It contains standard provisions for dissolving the two bodies and for such matters as transferring land, property, rights and liabilities of the council and the authority to sport Ireland. Section 37 provides that employees of the council and the authority will become employees of sport Ireland on the day it is established. Section 38 provides that employees who were members of an existing superannuation scheme before the transfer will continue to be members of the scheme with the same terms and conditions.
Part 4 of the Bill, covering sections 40 to 45, inclusive, deals with anti-doping measures. There was a general provision on anti-doping in the 1999 Act establishing the Irish Sports Council. Technology has moved on since and measures for anti-doping worldwide are much more sophisticated now. I commend the council, as its work in this area is highly regarded internationally. With new anti-doping provisions in this Bill, I intend to give a stronger statutory basis to the work already being undertaken. Section 40 designates sport Ireland as the national anti-doping organisation for the State. It will perform the relevant functions referred to in the world anti-doping code, the UNESCO anti-doping convention and the Irish anti-doping rules. Section 41 gives sport Ireland responsibility for taking appropriate measures to deliver an effective response to doping in sport, including testing and education. It also gives sport Ireland responsibility for making and amending the Irish anti-doping rules. However, as set out in section 44, the existing Irish anti-doping rules made by the Irish Sports Council will continue to operate; they will be deemed to be the rules made by sport Ireland. The anti-doping rules include rules and arrangements relating to such matters as testing of athletes, banned substances, sanctions and so on.
Section 41 also provides for sharing of information with the Health Products Regulatory Authority, the Garda, Customs and Excise, and other anti-doping organisations for the purpose of combatting doping. Section 42 deals with data protection measures for sharing of information relating to doping. Sport Ireland will put information sharing agreements in place with the bodies I mentioned. This will be done in consultation with the Data Protection Commissioner. Any sharing of information will only be to the extent necessary for the purpose of preventing and eliminating doping. Section 43 means that any person who is a member of a sports national governing body, which receives funding from sport Ireland, or any person who represents the State in sport must comply with the anti-doping rules. Anyone who fails to comply with the rules will not be eligible for funding and will not be allowed to represent the State. Section 45 lists the definitions used in this part of the Bill. These are important measures which will allow Sport Ireland to inspire fair play in sport. The anti-doping programme is critical to help ensure that Irish athletes can compete cleanly on the world stage.
Schedule 1 of the Bill deals with matters relating to the board. This includes matters such as the appointment of board members, the establishment of committees and the procedure for meetings. It also addresses disclosure of interests by members and the disclosure of confidential information. This section requires sport Ireland to establish committees to advise on the functions of anti-doping, the National Sports Campus, coaching and high-performance sport.
Schedule 2 lists the provisions that apply in the event of any compulsory acquisition of land. This Government has demonstrated its commitment to investing in sport and sports clubs. We saw some of the results of that last week with the announcement by UEFA that Dublin will be a host city for the European soccer championship in 2020. This is a great result for Ireland and I hope it will encourage more young people to get involved in sport. It is one of the greatest major sporting events that will ever come to this country. I compliment the chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, FAI, Mr. John Delaney, as well as Dublin City Council. I compliment people in my Department, including Mr. Tom O'Mahony and Mr. Donagh Morgan, as well as the hard-working officials who worked with other Departments to ensure Ireland became a host city. These are the people who work behind the scenes. We might not see them on a daily basis but I take this opportunity to thank every single one for helping the Government and the FAI to get this major sporting event for Ireland. It will help us in future years in getting tourists to the country.
I welcome the decision by the Government yesterday to change the way rates are charged on sports clubs. Under the new rules agreed by the Government, clubs will only be liable to pay rates on the part of the club that generates income, such as the bar area. This is a welcome change that will particularly benefit sports clubs that are struggling with debt. Many sporting clubs in the country, particularly in the good times, built massive facilities but are now struggling, so they need whatever support they can get from the Government. I welcome yesterday's Government decision. That is something we have lobbied for, and I did so personally. The Department has sought this for many years and I am delighted with the decision.
We have continued to support our elite athletes and we have seen some excellent performances and results from them. I take this opportunity to congratulate our most recent medal winner, cyclist Ryan Mullen, who won a silver medal in the men's under-23 time trial at the world championships in Spain this week.
The Irish Sports Council and the National Sport Campus Development Authority are doing great work in developing sport in Ireland. Under this Bill, the two bodies will merge and the baton will pass to sport Ireland. I know that sport Ireland will continue in the tradition of serving all our athletes and all our citizens well.
I am pleased with the sports capital programme and we would love to see another round, as it is important for many clubs throughout the country. The sports capital programme has worked very well, especially for small clubs. Sports is not all about elite athletes but rather participation. It is about giving young boys and girls the opportunity to participate in sport in this country and have the chance to use even basic facilities in every corner of the country. As Minister of State responsible for sport, I will try to ensure we can get another round of the sports capital grant, although it will not be easy. The Government gave a commitment that we would have two rounds of the programme in the lifetime of this Government and they are in place. I would like to get a third round. Many sporting organisations were disappointed they did not get grant aid the last time and I would like to give them a chance on the next round to get the funding to develop even simple facilities. We have national stadiums and major sporting infrastructure.
The sports campus is a marvellous development. We have worked hard on it in difficult times and we got the necessary funding to develop it. It is great that our athletes do not have to go abroad and are able to train and participate in their own country. They can then go abroad to win medals for their country. Sport is not all about winning medals, as it is about participation, representing the country and wearing the green jersey, with people doing what they can for sport. I am delighted to bring the Bill before the Dáil and I look forward to hearing the contributions on Second Stage.