The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country for projects which must be directly related to the provision of sport and recreation facilities. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.
The guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme clearly stipulate that "Applicants will have to submit rules and procedures as evidence of non-discrimination on the grounds of sex, religion, ethnic origin etc." This emphasis on ensuring equality of treatment is reflected in the fact that grants allocated under the scheme are made available only to organisations whose membership is open to both sexes. It should, however, be borne in mind that in some situations patterns of participation may differ as between males and females.
Almost €267 million has been allocated under the programme since 1998 to more than 3,500 projects. As far as my Department is aware, allegations of discriminatory practices have not been made against any of the recipients of these grants.
The 2004 sports capital programme was advertised in the national newspapers on 30 November and 1 December 2003. The closing date for receipt of applications was 16 January 2004. A total of 1,302 applications was received before the closing date and these are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.
A review of the existing sports capital programme under the Department's expenditure review programme is currently being finalised. Following this it is my intention to establish an inter-agency steering group to commence work immediately on developing a long-term strategic plan for the provision of sports facilities. I can assure the Deputy that the issue of ensuring equality of access and opportunity will be examined by the inter-agency steering group which will oversee the preparation of the long-term strategy.