Women in Sport: Presentation.

I welcome Mr. P.J. Cunningham, sports editor of the Irish Independent and Mr. Malachy Logan, sports editor of The Irish Times, whom we have invited to the committee in the context of our study of women in sport. I am sure Deputy Deenihan has provided the visitors with a short briefing as the rapporteur study is his. After our visitors make their opening comments, I will open the floor to questions.

Mr. Malachy Logan

I thank the joint committee for its invitation, which it is unusual for a sports editor to receive. I have prepared some short notes from which to speak. I thought about this over the weekend and there are two areas in life in which it can be reasonably argued that women are marginalised. One is war and the other is sport. In the case of the former, I cannot recall any media pundit or politician calling for a more active role for women, while in the case of the latter women's efforts are often seen as an extension of male dominated events rather than as standing on their own merits. This attitude has its roots in the treatment of women historically. Sport is no different from most other areas of life. It reflects the imbalance which is prevalent elsewhere, but it is slowly changing.

In the case of media coverage, it can still be argued that women's sport is the poor relation despite some significant advances in recent years. There is undoubtedly a great disparity between the coverage of men's and women's sports. It must be recognised that newspapers and other media outlets merely reflect their readers' or audience's interests. It would be a foolhardy editor who decided to reduce the coverage of a popular sport simply to enhance the coverage of a women's event with a small playing base and even an smaller degree of support. No sports editor would be thanked by his or her editor if he or she incurred the wrath of readers due to an element of positive discrimination, no matter how well meaning.

A significant increase in the number of pages devoted to sport, not to mention staff, would be required if all areas of sporting activity, including women's sports, were to be adequately covered by newspapers. Mr. P.J. Cunningham would probably agree that most newspapers could fill their designated space three times over every night given the amount of sport which takes place nationally and internationally. Hard decisions about covering particular sports or stories are made every night and it is only natural that a fan of a particular sport will feel short-changed if his or her event receives scant coverage.

In the case of women's events, straightforward editorial decisions are often wrongly seen as discriminatory. In my experience over 14 years, there has never been an occasion on which a male event was favoured over a female event other than on the basis of the relative merits of a story. If an Irish sportswoman achieves international success in any discipline, she will garner as many reports and headlines as any sportsman. In fact, I contend that she will regularly receive even more coverage as success is even more unusual and women tend to be better, more honest communicators. Nationally, examples in recent times include Sonia O'Sullivan, Catherina McKiernan and Gillian O'Sullivan. Internationally, there are the Williams sisters in tennis, Annika Sorenstam in golf and Paula Radcliffe in athletics. The list goes on.

At a national level, it is only in more recent years that many women's sports have adopted a more professional and coherent approach to organising and publicising their events. Most of the women's sporting bodies with which I have spoken accept they do not have a divine right to media coverage. They must get their acts together to attract more girls and, in turn, create the role models which will help their activities and increase awareness of women's sports in general. That awareness and the creation of future champions and role models is crucial to increased media coverage. Boys are urged at school to be competitive at all levels, but that is not necessarily the case with school girls. The message must be driven home at all coaching levels, particularly at primary and secondary school, that a girl need not be some sort of beast on a testosterone rampage to be the best at sport. She needs only to be committed, skilled, encouraged and trained in exactly the same way as boys. It is incumbent on the media to ensure coverage of women's sport is not in any way trivialised. This is important because a lack of focus on athleticism, skill and achievements in favour of physical appearance, personal lifestyles and personal life, present in some coverage of women's sport, undermines the status of women in sport.

On a different note, people often confuse media coverage with participation levels. Many men and women who enjoy the exercise involved in sport do not expect national media coverage. Thousands of men and women and boys and girls swim, play tennis, cycle and play golf each week without wanting to compete at a serious level or expecting media coverage. In some cases, they earn media coverage through specialist or provincial newspapers.

As much as any other women, sportswomen do not want to be patronised in terms of coverage. A tokenist approach serves no long-term purpose in encouraging and developing women in sport. I believe every sports editor would accept that the media have a role in promoting and encouraging sport across the board. By and large, this role is taken seriously by newspapers and individual journalists. No sector or sport should be favoured because it has fewer playing numbers or is in dire need of sponsorship.

Ultimately, responsibility for developing overall sports strategy will always rest with those who have the money to develop the sport in question, including Governments through the allocation of adequate funds, and the sports organisations through promoting and expanding their own sports. All the sports journalists with whom I have worked have been happy to go anywhere nationally or internationally and regardless of whether men or women were competing.

Mr. P. J. Cunningham

As Deputies Glennon and Deenihan will be aware, I would have been substituted by this stage if we were a team because Mr. Logan has run with the ball and I have had very little to say so far. Having said that, as I head for the line I may not have much more to say as my colleague has already said much of what I intended to say.

The Deputies, both of whom played sport at a high level, will know that the beauty of sport is the passion it engenders. This is good at all levels and works its way down. George Orwell once went as far as to say that sport, when it became serious, was really war without the bullets. I do not buy into that line and would prefer to cite a former American basketball coach, John Wooden, because his remark on sport epitomises for me what it should be all about. He said: "Sports do not build character; they reveal it." When one applies this to one's children, boys or girls, one can find no finer expression than that one can send them out to the world to do something in which they reveal their character.

Like Mr. Logan, it has been my observation during many years in the newspaper business that sport has been traditionally male dominated, which goes without saying. Manchester United, the Kerry football team, the Irish rugby team and so forth are all male teams formed in the latter part of the 19th century. Women have had to play catch-up, therefore, and have only begun to do so in the past couple of decades. I am glad to note, however, that they are catching up at a hell of a rate.

We have experienced a virtual explosion in numbers. It is fantastic that my ten year old daughter is one of 84,000 people who play ladies' Gaelic football. Helen O'Rourke, who is involved in the sport, estimates the figure will rise to 100,000 in the next few years. Similarly, my daughter plays camogie which is played by 80,000 people. These are huge participation rates. As my editor told me during a chat in recent weeks, and as Mr. Logan pointed out, we would be crazy not to reflect this.

Mr. Logan also said there is no point in tokenism. We are approaching the point at which coverage of women's sports is being included in newspapers on merit because of the large number of women involved in sports. I am glad to report to the committee - Mr. Logan will agree - that more and more column inches will be eaten up by the endeavour of ladies on the football or camogie fields.

Mr. Logan described the dynamic that is always present in journalism, although I am not sure it is exactly the same in The Irish Times and Irish Independent. In my newspaper, politicians are considered so important that the editor might say, for example, that a page will be needed to cover a row in the Dáil between Deputies Deenihan and Glennon and it must include pictures of both Deputies when they were 21 years old. As a result, the sports section will lose a page and will have, say, four instead of five pages.

We also have space invaders from the other side, the advertisers. One might hear that advertising on a given day is very strong and four columns from the sports section will be needed. As Mr. Logan stated, one could probably fill the five pages devoted to sport twice over, yet they may suddenly be reduced by perhaps a full page or half a page. Without wishing to make this a men versus women issue - it is not - the column inches that Mr. Logan and I, as sports editors, have to dish out every day are fought over.

I am happy to report, and again there is no tokenism involved, that the Irish Independent recently appointed Cliona Foley athletics correspondent in succession to the legendary Tom O’Riordan. It would be nice if a female athletics correspondent were to report on an Irish gold medal win at the Olympic Games. If we are to win a gold medal, it appears it will be won by one of the Irish girls, either Gillian O’Sullivan or perhaps Sonia O’Sullivan, because none of the lads appears to be up to the required level.

Gillian O'Sullivan, Mary Purcell, Sonia O'Sullivan, Catherina McKiernan and Sinéad Jennings emerged from individual sports. However, because ladies' sports have got their act together, so to speak, in the past 15 to 20 years, we now have the emergence of a large number of team stars, which is as it should be. We have, for example, Cora Staunton from County Mayo who some people argue - Deputy Deenihan may agree - is the best forward, male or female, to come out of the county in the past 30 years. We also have the emergence of Eimear McDonnell and Angie McNally of the Tipperary camogie and Dublin ladies football teams, respectively. As someone involved at club level with boys and girls, I have noticed a huge proliferation of girls taking up football and other team sports and in the coming years I look forward to the emergence of the first generation of Irish stars from our indigenous sports.

As politicians, members of the committee will agree with the sentiment expressed by the former US politician and judge, Earl Warren, who once said:

I always turn to the sports pages first, which record people's accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man's failures.

Let us hope, ladies and gentlemen, that we, in sport, can record in growing numbers the accomplishments of men and, in particular, women, in the coming years.

When Mr. Cunningham referred to the best forward, male or female, to come out of County Mayo, I was tempted to tell the committee that I was standing beside Brian McEniff last year when the Donegal ladies' team won the national final and the first text message he received afterwards was to ask him to sign up the ladies for the men's team this year. I hope the appearance of Mr. Logan and Mr. Cunningham before the joint committee will feature either in the politics or sports columns of the newspapers.

I will ask a couple of questions before handing over to Deputy Deenihan. Athletics and tennis are two of what one might describe as "acceptable" female sports. Is it the case that television coverage of major tennis and athletics tournaments, at which both men and women appear, helps create role models such as Sonia O'Sullivan, Venus and Serena Williams and the others who have been mentioned?

When one watches coverage of an athletics meeting on television the action can change in two minutes from a women's race to the men's shot-put or men's or women's long distance races. It is a positive factor that people are not tuning in to a male or female sport but one which encapsulates both.

The same is true for tennis. If one tunes into coverage of Wimbledon, one could be watching the ladies' singles followed by mixed doubles. People cannot create role models unless there is exposure. It is a chicken and egg situation. The ones who have succeeded best so far are those in mixed gender sports, particularly those which are featured on television. The does not hold in regard to horse racing because it is not as apparent when female jockeys are in action.

I am sure if we brought sports journalists in here they would say that they go to their editors with wonderful stories about females in sport but the editors do not want these stories. So much information comes to editors that it is hard to make decisions.

I invite witnesses to comment on the possibilities for local media to play a stronger role than is possible for the national media in promoting female participation in sport. At local level there may be less pressure on column inches. I would like to hear a comment in this regard.

I welcome the witnesses, Mr. Logan and Mr. Cunningham, and thank them for attending. While there was no pressure on them to come, it is important that they are here.

Most committee members are convinced that there is no gender equality in sport although, as Mr. Logan said, it is improving. We have to change the attitude to women in sport. There are positive indications of change, but as a keen observer of sport I maintain that women are still very much second-class citizens. We hope to change this attitude. Our report will be enhanced by the input of people such as the witnesses before us.

In monitoring newspapers in preparation for a report on this matter a consistent trend emerged in regard to sports coverage. Over a ten-day period I monitored the number of individual players and officials featured in the sports sections in The Irish Times, the Irish Independent, the Irish Examiner, the Irish Mirror and The Star. Of a total of 1,979 photographs of people involved in sport, 1,924 were of men and 55 were of women. A total of 363 of the photographs of men featured in team photographs while there were no team photographs of women. A total of 97.2% of the photographs were of men while 2.78% were of women. Some 24% of all newspaper space was given over to sports coverage, although this varied from newspaper to newspaper.

I counted the number of images in two newspapers today, although not with the intention of catching out the witnesses. In the Irish Independent a total of 33 men were featured on the sports pages as opposed to one woman, Venus Williams. That same photograph is in The Irish Times today there are 18 images of men and just one woman.

Mr. Cunningham

That could be because there is just one major sporting event on.

It could change.

Mr. Cunningham

To be fair, it differs depending on the time of year. In August when the ladies' football and camogie season is in full swing, the percentages are different. One can use statistics to damn or otherwise.

Mr. Cunningham

It would be unfair to infer that there is one token female featured and the rest are men. As I alluded to earlier, the reality is that there were soccer matches last night and the GAA season is up and running. The ladies' GAA season does not get into gear for some time. Camogie does not start until 22 February.

Point taken. As a result of the low level of coverage, it is harder for women to secure sponsorship. I accept that ladies' football, basketball and other ladies' sports are now doing well but when potential sponsors ask to see their portfolio of exposure there is nothing to show. That is the big difficulty. It is a chicken and egg situation, in that if one does not get the coverage one will not get the sponsorship. On the other hand, if one gets the sponsorship and is more professional in presenting oneself, one may get more coverage.

Mr. Logan

I made that point.

Yes, Mr. Logan did.

Mr. Logan

It is not for newspapers to promote particular sports in order that they can get sponsorship. It is something of a chicken and egg situation, but it is the responsibility of sporting organisations. The more professional they become the more coverage they get.

One can cite many examples of this, such as the camogie organisation launching its centenary year last year. Camogie will become more prominent as the organisation becomes more professional. It recently appointed a marketing director, Sinéad O'Connor, who came to see Mr. Cunningham and me, separately. One has to go out and look for it. Many male sports are ignored such as pitch and putt. Newspapers have different demographic groups to appeal to.

Mr. Cunningham

Ladies' basketball gets as much coverage as men's basketball. The same is true of hockey. It is not a question of giving more coverage on grounds of gender. Both groups get a similar amount of coverage.

A corresponding survey was done on newspapers in the UK and US where it emerged that women fared better in both of these countries. There is a strong sporting culture in the US due to a section 9 provision where X amount of dollars is ring-fenced for the promotion of female sport. There are more images of females in sport there than we see here, as well as more female stars due to the professional status of basketball and so on. Women's golf also gets major coverage. The tournaments move with the seasons north and south which results in year-round coverage.

The feedback I received from individual and team athletes is that because they are not getting coverage for whatever reason they cannot make a hard play for sponsorship, which is as much do with how they present themselves, as has been said, as the coverage they get in newspapers.

Both Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Logan look at sports pages every day and they have made some suggestions. How do they think the issue of women in sport could be given a higher profile? Is major funding required, such as from the national lottery, for example? Should lottery funding be gender-proofed, so that when grants are allocated for facilities, a certain percentage must be ring-fenced for women in the same way it is done in the US? Is positive discrimination required for women's sports before they can arrive at a level playing pitch?

Mr. Logan

Following on from the Chairman's point, the influence of television is interesting. Tennis was mentioned. If one looks at Wimbledon or the Australian Open which is currently on, or any of the four grand slam tournaments, I contend that women get more coverage than men. The women involved are role models. Women's tennis is more skilful that men's. People have grown bored watching big-serving men's tennis. Women play better quality tennis, all be it over three sets. While women were historically paid less for competing at Wimbledon, they have levelled the pitch in recent years.

Owing to its scale, the national media cannot deal with the community games to the same level as the local press. The coverage given to the community games in provincial newspapers is terrific for encouraging kids and national newspapers cannot devote such coverage. Mr. Cunningham made a point about women's hockey and basketball getting equal play. The Ladies' Gaelic Football Association and the Camogie Association want their games to be held as curtain raisers at men's national league matches. It is a good idea and would give greater appeal to a wider audience. If the associations put effort into marketing and promotion of their games, they will be rewarded. For example, both the Irish Independent and The Irish Times run women’s golf events during the year - this is positive discrimination. Mr. Cunningham and I both serve on the selection committee for the Texaco sports stars award. Of the ten nominated stars this year, two were women and some years there are three female award winners.

National newspapers try to reflect public interest. How many Members have attended a women's Gaelic football match outside an All-Ireland final? It is probably very few. While they will eventually get there, they have to get their house in order and must be given adequate funds. I do not think newspapers would like to take on the responsibility of promoting particular sports.

Donegal played in the All-Ireland ladies' junior final last year. I heard men, who would normally not take an interest in ladies' football, talking about this match that they had watched on television. They felt it was skilful and even better than men's football.

It was a junior game.

Yes. However, their interest was held by the television coverage. I return to the issue of holding mixed gender events. If the All-Ireland senior football final was preceded by the ladies' final, and the All-Ireland hurling final was preceded by the camogie final, would they get the same coverage in the newspapers?

Mr. Cunningham

In their own right, the ladies' Gaelic football finals attract between 20,000 and 30,000 people. This is an incredible improvement on a few years ago. The GAA is reticent about doing something like the chairman has suggested. It is a wonderful idea. It would be great to have the men's minor final and the ladies' senior final on a Sunday and the men's senior final and the ladies' junior final the following week. This is not going to happen immediately. I see many ladies' matches during the year as my daughter plays the game and I am involved with a GAA club. Gaelic football is purer when played by women and is more popular with parents. It is only a matter of time before the ladies' game bites the rump of the male-dominated GAA. There are going to be many stars of the game and they will get column inches on merit rather than having to look for them. This will happen in the next five to ten years.

I welcome Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Logan. It is great to meet two sportsmen with no agenda other than sport in general. Deputy Deenihan may have given the wrong impression in his statistical analysis. I feel the Irish Independent and The Irish Times give a fair crack of the whip to women’s sport. We must remember that sport covered by the national media is, by definition, elite sport. The newspapers can only reflect this. The purpose of this discussion is to determine how participation can be developed at grassroots level so that a broader choice of sport is available for young girls and women and we ultimately will have more people like Gillian O’Sullivan and Sonia O’Sullivan.

The Chairman referred to marketing and the coincidence of the Olympics that presents the opportunity for coverage of women's sport. The GAA has cottoned on to this in recent years and September and October are finals months. They have organised the ladies' finals at a time when interest in the games are at their peak. I have a hunch that for this reason, the attendance at the ladies' finals is disproportionate to the attendances at earlier rounds of the competition. While there is a high level of participation in women's soccer, there is hardly any media coverage of this. The LFAI does not appear to have seized the opportunity of joint marketing.

In all sports, women's sport is more skilful than men's. Men's sport has become increasingly physical and there is a huge emphasis on physical presence on the part of the participants, particularly at elite levels. Women's sport does not appear to be similarly afflicted, and hopefully never will. However, looking at some of the female participants one wonder where it is heading.

The Chairman's point about the ladies' All-Ireland junior football final is a good case in point as it was an extremely skilful game. Looking at them as athletic contests, there was not a huge difference in the skill levels between the ladies' junior and senior games; they were equally entertaining and contained tremendous amateur effort. This is another vital point. The vast bulk of women's sport in Ireland is amateur.

I am interested to hear the sports editors' views of the "Kournikova factor". While she seems to have faded, I have no doubt there will be other such players. Unfortunately, it will always be a factor. However, neither The Irish Times nor the Irish Independent were guilty of portraying this factor to anything like the same extent as other newspapers.

Mr. Cunningham

It could be argued on the other side that there is the "Beckham factor". Some people are current and are never out of the papers, particularly the red tops. That is a fact of life. It is the way in which we go about——

David Beckham is at the top of his sport whereas Anna Kournikova is not and never was.

Mr. Logan

That point is true. One trivialises women's sport when one gets on to this type of issue. I have experience of this from a woman journalist with whom I worked for a number of years. We were careful, even with the number of pictures we used from Wimbledon and particularly the Australian Open, that they were rotated so that there was a man one day and a woman the next and so on. In regard to Ms Kournikova, one often finds that news pages are more interested than sports pages.

Mr. Cunningham

That is because more often than not, she is making fashion statements rather than winning matches.

Her appearance fees were for that rather than her athletic prowess. It looks like a new case is emerging with Michelle Wei, the golfer who has recently emerged.

Mr. Cunningham

She is a serious talent, unlike Anna Kournikova.

Absolutely. That was the point I was about to make.

Mr. Cunningham

The Chairman asked how one makes golf and tennis in Ireland more attractive. Are we lucky enough to have a Michelle Wei, an emerging Venus Williams, a Sorenstam or someone like that? In the 1980s, one only used one's bicycle to go to school when suddenly Seán Kelly and Stephen Roche made it a really Irish sport. Now that is gone because once they left the people who were into it left too. Ladies' sport perhaps needs some luck like that. It needs an Irish Michelle Wei or another good athlete to emerge who can be a good role model for children. That will come in team sports too.

The Department has grant aid for a number of elite athletes. I wonder if, rather than the lottery sports money being gender-proofed, there should be a minimum criterion for the elite athletes to come through. The role-modelling is key. If we do not see people getting to the top, there is no interest. This has to do with the issue of parenting. The mother is the person the toddler looks at. If the mother is walking, the child will walk, which goes through. Whether one is talking about male or female athletics, the investment in the woman, perhaps rather than her becoming an elite athlete, might pass through to the next generation and perhaps that is where there needs to be investment.

Mr. Logan

There is a slight difference at schools level. Many boys when they play sport absolutely aspire to be the next Brian O'Driscoll, Kieran McGeeney or DJ Carey, whatever sport it is. However, girls more admire than aspire and there is a subtle difference in this regard. When they look at the great tennis players and the wealth whcih can be created outside of the physical enjoyment of sport. Girls may look at the media and say that if they are Venus Williams or Annika Sorenstram, they will get significant media coverage.

I was involved with a little magazine this year called Cool for Kids in The Irish Times, a cartoon-type publication. We felt comfortable putting a female on the front, whereas years ago one would not have even contemplated it. We felt comfortable with it and there was no problem. We also got good feedback from the kids.

There is a subtle difference between aspiring and admiring among children and how one gets over that is a matter of long-term strategy for the sports themselves.

That point was made by Maeve Kyle in her presentation to the committee.

Mr. Cunningham

It would be money well spent if one could support some organisations. For example, it is only in the past few years that ladies' football has been able to do its own all-stars awards and make a big night of it. In the context of aspiration, that is one case in which the picture is in the following day's newspapers and Monday's newspapers after the Saturday night, in the same way as is the case with the men's awards.

There is a proposal and a large number of organisations and individuals are making submissions to us. One submission was that there should be a sports awards for women every year. What do the delegates think of that idea? Of the various sports, bodies would be set up and women would be nominated from them. Would that create a gender difference?

Mr. Cunningham

That would be creating the very thing we are talking about. If one did that with men, one would not be comfortable with it. I am not sure we will advance the cause by doing this for women. If people gave support and public money was made available to the ladies in camogie picking their centenary all-star team, it would be more meaningful long-term than making it an issue of male versus female.

As Mr. Logan said, on merit, there are increasingly more people winning the likes of Texaco awards, the top awards people can aspire to in this country. They are not designed to help a sector. Rather, they reflect the best in the country and people win the award on merit, as did Gillian O'Sullivan and Emer McDonald did.

In all the ladies' GAA matches, I have never seen anything unsporting, which is incredible. One does not have to wait two minutes in a male game before it starts off.

I refereed a match recently and had to be familiarised with the rules of ladies' football. For example, there is no physical tackle and one cannot foot tackle; in other words if the ball is on the ground, one cannot put one's boot in on it. That cleans it up and makes a major difference. As a result of the rules, there is a much more open, free-flowing game. I totally agree that what the ladies play is much more like Gaelic football compared to what the men are playing.

Mr. Cunningham

It is also about the attitude. One can hear the girls because these are local matches and they are very supportive of one another, and even of opponents. For example, a goalkeeper let in a goal and, where men would be delighted to have scored a goal and not think of the goalie, the forwards in the ladies' game went to the goalie to commiserate with her. It is a good attitude and long may it last.

Can I ask for a round up of the last comments and questions if they can be grouped?

We would need a lot more time because issues are emerging even here today. If the delegation could think about this further and put in further pointers, it would be useful. My point is in regard to the number of appearances which were counted and counted again. There are different times of the year in which there is more women's sport, but that is generally the balance.

I understand it is not the delegates' brief or responsibility but is there any way in which they could monitor the amount of coverage as a matter of policy, although it is not an over-riding policy to create a balance as such? They only report on the events and their popularity. If this could be done, it would be a help. The delegates have raised various issues which we can take up with women's sporting organisations. We can state that this is what newspaper editors say and they matter a great deal. They should be aware of their opinions in the context of getting coverage. The meeting has been helpful from that point of view.

This is the European year of sport in education. At one stage, The Irish Times ran a music in the classroom series as a pull out. Is there a possibility of a similar supplement with a sporting perspective, given that the funding and focus are there? It would be beneficial to get sport into the classroom again. A trendy item in the other part of the paper is the comments about obesity levels and so on. Possibly, on a cross-curricular theme, there is an opportunity in this area.

Mr. Logan

That is a good point. The newspapers should welcome something like that. It is important that one finds the right people to write about it - people with some experience or whose children play sports, as Mr. Cunningham said. Sometimes the supplements are thrown away, but this would draw readers in.

The Irish Times recently had an excellent report on music and people are wondering when it will be done again. That is why I mentioned this.

I am sorry I missed the beginning of the meeting, but I looked back over what was said. We are talking about the issue of women in sport. Have many other people mentioned this issue? Is it an issue that is discussed often among Mr. Logan's colleagues? Was there a problem in this area before we decided to have this meeting?

Mr. Logan

Mr. Cunningham remarked earlier that his athletics correspondent is a woman. There are not enough women working in TV or newspapers in sport. We have one reporter, Mary Hannigan, who won the sports writer of the year award last year. She is interested in soccer. There are not many women coming from journalism courses in college who want to cover sport, but it would be nice to see some who do. We would welcome it, if only because it would provide balance in terms of coverage.

It is an interesting question, particularly considering the tendency towards less involvement in sport and stronger involvement in academic matters in schools. I do not mean any offence to the profession of sports journalism——

Mr. Logan

None taken.

——but the female higher achievers are not going into this profession. The intake in medical schools at the moment is 75% female and shortly the majority of GPs in Ireland will be female. It is a matter of admiration and aspiration - we could talk about this for years. I thank the visitors for attending. This meeting has been worthwhile and provided much food for thought.

I echo what has been said. Although the committee has been in existence for only about a year, we have discussed a few interesting topics over that time. We must pull together our thoughts and today's contributions will certainly help us. I hope the visitors will keep the channels open with Deputy Deenihan so they may exchange suggestions and so on. We are serious about this issue and we look forward to working with them.

We hope to see a report of this meeting in the newspapers.

The joint committee adjourned at 5.15 p.m. sine die.