I thank Senator Joe O'Reilly for raising this important issue. I congratulate the Senator on his recent election to the Seanad and wish him many terms of success in the Upper House, particularly as I am very happy in the other House.
I am dealing with this issue on behalf of the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy Seamus Brennan, who is unavoidably absent. The funding available to the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism is for clearly identifiable programmes relating to sport, arts, culture and tourism. Under the national lottery-funded sports capital programme operated by my Department, grants are awarded to sports clubs and organisations and to voluntary and community groups for the development of sports and recreational facilities. This programme is the primary means of financing the sports infrastructure of the country and is administered on an annual basis. A total of €675 million has been allocated in sports capital grants to more than 6,700 sports projects since 1998, which has been of enormous benefit for the development of sport. I know Senator O'Reilly will join Senator Wilson and me in recognising the important contribution the sports capital programme has made in our native county of Cavan as well as in our constituency of Cavan-Monaghan.
I must stress that the focus of the programme is the development of sports facilities. The Castle Saunderson project is the proposed establishment of a permanent national scouting jamboree site and it has a very small sports element, being primarily a youth facility. An application on behalf of the project was submitted under the 2002 sports capital programme but was unsuccessful because of the very minor sports element in a project which at the time was costed at more than €8 million. The former Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy James McDaid, met with Scouting Ireland, the promoters of this ambitious project, and explained that the project was not one that was suitable for consideration for funding under the programme. In addition, Scouting Ireland has not submitted a subsequent application for the project to the programme since 2002. Therefore, the current Minister, Deputy Seamus Brennan, must regretfully inform the Senator that the position has not changed and he is unable to offer any assistance towards the project as it falls outside the nature of projects for which funding is provided by the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism.
With regard to cross-Border funding, in February 2006 the then Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy John O'Donoghue, contacted the Minister for Finance regarding possible sources of funding for the project from the Department of Finance. The Minister for Finance advised that the project may be able to apply for funding under the EU-funded PEACE II cross-Border programme. The Minister for Finance further advised that another programme, PEACE III, will cover the 2007 to 2013 programming period. In the course of a Dáil Adjournment debate on 28 February 2006 the Castle Saunderson project was advised to contact the Special EU Programmes Body in Belfast for further information on the PEACE programmes. That body has informed the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism that no application has been made by the Castle Saunderson project. The Senator will appreciate that the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism has no role in the development of the Castle Saunderson project and it would not be appropriate for the Minister to make an application to the above programme on its behalf. It obviously would be for the project promoters to submit an application.
I understand from the Department of Education and Science, which has responsibility for youth affairs, that the project promoters made contact with that Department in mid-February 2006, when correspondence was received via the Department of the Taoiseach. However, the Department of Education and Science also informed me that no funds are available in that Department for funding of capital works of this level. The project was advised of this via the Dáil Adjournment debate last year.
Furthermore, the Department of Education and Science has recently confirmed that it received a memorandum in late February 2006 which indicated that the board of directors of the Castle Saunderson project had drafted a resolution that the project would discontinue on the basis that it was unable to secure the necessary matching funding in the given timeframe. The resolution also suggested that the estate would be sold in order to discharge all remaining debts and to refund donations. This resolution was passed by the national management committee of Scouting Ireland. It would appear, therefore, on the basis of this information that the issue referred to by the Senator is no longer current.
I understand from my contacts that the Scouting Ireland movement may have made a more recent decision to reactivate the project. Over the years Senator Wilson and I, with my colleague, Deputy Rory O'Hanlon, have met various people interested in advancing the project, which has obvious merit. The suggestion made by the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, through the then Minister, Deputy John O'Donoghue, that the matter be pursued with the Special EU Programmes Body is obviously the correct approach. As these programmes have not yet been finalised, the matter should be pursued with the body if Scouting Ireland is reactivating the proposal.
I thank the Senator for raising this issue, with which I have been familiar over the years, as is our colleague, Senator Diarmuid Wilson.