Wednesday, 25 February 2004

Questions (20, 21)

Eamon Ryan


103 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will report on the outcome of his meeting with the community games organisation in 2003 and the assistance his Department will be providing to ensure that the community games will have a permanent home for the national annual games; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6114/04]

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Charlie O'Connor


190 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will report on the contacts he has had with the community games movement regarding this country; if organisations need to identify a new home for the annual national games held for many years in Mosney holiday centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6316/04]

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Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 and 190 together.

I had a number of meetings during 2003 with representatives of the community games organisation at which I advised them of my desire to ensure that they had some certainty regarding a venue for their national events. The most recent of these meetings was held on 19 November 2003.

At my request officials of my Department met the reception and integration agency which, as the Deputy will be aware, has arrangements in place for the use of the Mosney centre. Arising from this latter meeting, officials of my Department visited Mosney on 13 February 2004 to meet the reception and integration agency and representatives of the community games organisation.

During what was a positive meeting, all sides confirmed their willingness to help ensure that the facilities in Mosney continue to be available to host the games. The community games representatives expressed their satisfaction with the range and quality of the facilities and services available at Mosney and their suitability for their national events. They also confirmed that there is no other venue in Ireland with the scale and variety of facilities required for their national events as currently structured and that any question of providing a special, dedicated venue on the scale required, which would be used only a few times a year, would be unrealistic.

I am pleased to say that the reception and integration agency confirmed at the meeting that, for as long as it is using Mosney, the community games can avail of the facilities there, and certainly up to and including 2005. The agency hopes it will be in a position to agree to a continuation of the use of the Mosney facilities beyond 2005, in which case the future of the community games at Mosney will be secured for some time to come. This arrangement was welcomed by the community games representatives at the meeting.

I thank the Minister for his efforts in this regard. The community games has a long-standing tradition in Ireland and has helped to develop and produce some of our finest athletes and encourage people to participate in sport. The Minister will acknowledge that Mosney is synonymous with the community games and that any efforts on his part to ensure that continues are welcome. Are there any long-term plans to set up a task force to ensure Mosney can be used beyond 2005? What, if any, financial requirements would be made of the Minister's Department to ensure that happens?

The needs of the community games, in terms of its national finals, are unique in sport. It deals with a large number of children and young people who need facilities for a multiplicity of sports, disciplines and events as well as extensive residential accommodation, catering and so on over a few weekends, preferably all on the one site.

They admit that the idea of a specially dedicated facility for community games, which would require extensive and costly facilities and which would only be used a few times a year, is totally unrealistic. That presents us with a difficulty in proceeding. We have to ascertain if it will be possible to obtain Mosney after 2005. The reception and integration agency has been very kind in this respect and I acknowledge the generosity of its director, Mr. Waters, in ensuring that the games can proceed at Mosney into the foreseeable future. The reception and integration agency has stated that for as long as it is in Mosney, there will not be a difficulty for the community games.

As regards an event as unique as this one, all we can do is look ahead, in so far as we possibly can, with a view to ensuring that the games will not die. We have succeeded in doing this and I am confident that in the future we will be in a position to accommodate the community games again in one fashion or another. I thank Deputy Gogarty for his kind words. I am very committed to the games and I will try to do everything humanly possible to ensure their continuance at one venue or another.

From the contacts I have had with them, I know that the organisers of the community games appreciate the efforts the Minister has made to ensure their continued use of Mosney. He gave that commitment to the House on previous occasions when the issue arose. The history of the community games has been one of major benefit to the country. In future, the Abbotstown facility could meet the criteria laid down for the community games, apart from the residential aspect. Could the development of Abbotstown resolve the problems being encountered by the community games in the long term? In his statement, the Minister said he was happy with Mosney but there are question marks over its residential capacity and the games' organisers are concerned about that. Is it feasible for Abbotstown to host the community games if the residential aspect could be facilitated?

I certainly foresee Abbotstown playing a major role in the development of Irish sport in future. It will be an extremely useful facility from the perspective of the community games. The residential aspect is the problem, given the difficulties in housing the thousands of children participating in such an event. That is why Mosney is so useful because the residences are already there and have been used for years.

It is difficult to predict what will happen in future concerning the community games. We are assured of having them until 2005 and the reception and integration agency will be in Mosney beyond that date so there is no immediate threat to the games. We should look to the future, however, to see how we can ensure the continuance of the games. In this respect, we will continue our involvement with the community games organisers. I feel sure that when this year's games are over, the organisers will continue their dialogue with us regarding next year's games. We will try to ensure their continuance from year to year.

During the Minister's discussions with the community games organisation, was there any mention of a more regional approach to the games in future? Adopting a more inter-provincial approach in advance of the national championships may be a way of getting over the accommodation problem.

We did not enter into such a discussion but it is clear that the community games organisers want to continue the existing format. The involvement of so many children from various backgrounds in a communal setting reflects the community aspects of the games. The objective of the games is to foster a love of sport among young people, as well as promoting community involvement. As Deputies have said, the big problem is providing temporary accommodation for that number of children during the games. We have resolved the difficulty up to now but we will have to revisit the issue.

As regards Deputy Deenihan's question, to the best of my memory, the games organisers did not mention anything about running the championships on a more provincial basis. They still favour the current format.