Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Questions (228)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

369 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he intends to award further sports partnerships; and if he has other initiatives in hand to promote sport at school and in localities. [25001/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

As the Deputy is aware, the Irish Sports Council is the statutory body with responsibility for the development of sport, including initiatives to promote sport in local areas. The provision in funding for the Irish Sports Council in the 2004 Estimates is more than €30 million, in comparison with just over €13 million in 2000.

The Programme for Prosperity and Fairness committed the Government to the introduction of local sport partnerships to help promote and develop sport at local level. In its first strategy document, A New Era for Irish Sport-2000-2002, the Irish Sports Council included the establishment of local sports partnerships as one of its main priorities.

The Irish Sports Council, following the receipt of proposals from local bodies, approved and funded the establishment of eight partnerships in May 2001 and a further four were established in early 2002. These are located in Clare, Donegal, Fingal, Kildare, Laois, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary North, Cork, Limerick, Meath and Waterford.

At my Department's request the Irish Sports Council commissioned a review of the operation of four of the original eight partnerships. Following the completion and consideration of this review, I gave approval in 2003 to the Irish Sports Council to extend the network of local sports partnerships by a further four, bringing the total number of LSPs to 16. These four partnerships are now being established and are located in Kerry, Westmeath, Kilkenny and Mayo. In 2004, €2.3 million has been allocated to the LSPs to cover the 12 existing and four newly established sites. Since 2001, a total of almost €6.7 million has been allocated to the LSPs by the Irish Sports Council.

An independent appraisal and review of the entire local partnership process will be carried out by my Department later this year to obtain confirmation that this element of sport policy continues to have an impact at local level. The question of extending the partnerships to further areas of the country will be considered in the light of the outcome of that appraisal.

The Irish Sports Council is responsible for a number of initiatives aimed at promoting sport in local areas. The sport for young people grant scheme is distributed through the vocational education committees to promote sporting opportunities for young people, particularly those in areas of social and economic disadvantage. That grant scheme is open to the vocational education committees, which do not currently have local sports partnerships in their areas.

The designated areas scheme and underage participation scheme provide significant funding to the FAI, GAA and IRFU, to assist these organisations to develop programmes for increasing participation in sport by young people in the three main field sports.

The Buntús programme is also being rolled out by the Irish Sports Council through the local sports partnership network to primary schools. The programme aims to support the primary PE curriculum by providing equipment, resource cards and training to teachers and allows teachers and introductory level coaches introduce sport to children in a safe and fun way.

The code of ethics and good practice for children's sport was launched in 2000 by the Irish Sports Council and provides guidelines to sports organisations in promoting good practice in children's sport. The core message in the code is that sport must be safe, must be fun and no matter what young people are involved in, that it takes place in a spirit of "fair play".

The European Year of Education through Sport 2004, EYES 2004, is an important European Commission initiative in the area of education and sport, which I launched along with my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, in Croke Park in January this year. As part of our national programme in this regard, this initiative will be used to promote the importance of sport within the education system, particularly in promoting social inclusion.

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, is run on an annual basis and allocates funding towards the provision of sporting and recreational facilities to voluntary and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. A total of €330 million has been allocated to over 4,200 projects under the programme since 1998. Subject to certain conditions, schools and colleges are included provided that their applications are made jointly with local sports clubs or community groups.

It is my intention that a proposed national audit of local sports facilities be carried out in conjunction with the development of a sports facilities strategy. As the Deputy will appreciate, completion of a review of the sports capital programme is a necessary precursor to the development of overall strategy in this area. As this review is now in its final stages, I intend to set up an inter-agency steering group to oversee the project.

The Department of Education and Science will be represented on this group. I have no doubt that the facility needs to cater for school children and this will be one of the key issues to be considered in the sports facilities strategy, the development of which will heavily influence the scope and requirements of the national audit of sports facilities.