Wednesday, 20 October 2004

Questions (46)

Paddy McHugh

Question:

148 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of grant aid allocated to Tuam Stadium, Tuam, County Galway, by his Department; the reason for the refusal of a recent grant application; and if grant aid will be made available for essential development work to be carried out. [25562/04]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

Tuam Stadium Development Association received an allocation of €127,000 under the 2000 sports capital programme. The organisation submitted a further application for assistance received under the 2004 sports capital programme. A total of 1,304 applications were received under this year's programme, 73 of which were for projects in County Galway.

All applications were evaluated by my Department in accordance with the detailed assessment criteria for the programme published in the guidelines, terms and conditions document which accompanied the application form for the programme. Having regard to the assessment scores achieved and the amount of funding available, provisional allocations were made. I announced the provisional grant allocations for those projects classified as local on 7 May 2004 and on 10 August I announced those classified as regional, municipal or multi-purpose and national. Of the 739 provisional allocations under the 2004 programme amounting to €61 million in funding, 39 projects in County Galway were allocated a total of €3.4 million. The application on behalf of Tuam Stadium Association under this year's programme was unsuccessful and a letter was issued to the organisation on 16 August last advising it of the outcome of the application. A copy of the assessment of the application conducted by my Department, including the scores attained under each criterion, was also provided. When I announce details of the 2005 sports capital programme later this year, it will be open to the organisation to submit an application if it wishes to do so and if it intends to engage in a project which satisfies the programme's terms and conditions.

Tuam Stadium is not the designated GAA county ground of the Galway county board. Pearse Stadium, which is the official county ground, has been allocated €1.4 million in funding under the sports capital programme in recent years. In addition, the GAA's Connacht provincial council listed Tuam Stadium as fourth out of the five applications submitted in 2004 under the sports capital programme in order of priority for funding.

I thank the Minister for his reply, which was very disappointing, to say the least. As the leading stadium in County Galway over the years, Tuam Stadium has hosted many football matches in all grades. It has been the venue for college matches, under age games, Coiste Peil na n-Óg tournaments, ladies football, Connacht finals and Railway Cup finals. It is managed on a voluntary basis by a few committed members and a hard-working committee. Does the Minister agree that the local voluntary committee has worked hard, for example, through fundraising, to keep the stadium open? It has ensured that the stadium complies — just about — with health and safety regulations.

Does the Minister agree that expenditure of approximately €5 million is required if the stadium is to continue to accommodate GAA fixtures? Such moneys will do little more than bring the stadium up to scratch and ensure that it complies fully with health and safety regulations.

The Minister's reply referred to the GAA's designation of Pearse Stadium as the leading stadium in County Galway. Does the Minister not agree that the existing stadium at Tuam needs to be modernised? We do not want it to eclipse Pearse Stadium as the main stadium in County Galway, as the stadiums are not in competition. Tuam Stadium is worthy of special attention, however, because it is located in north-east Galway, which is the centre of the home of Galway football.

Is the Minister aware that Tuam has been designated as a disadvantaged area under the RAPID programme? Does he agree that Tuam Stadium is worthy of special attention and funding because it is in a RAPID area? Does he accept that the stadium deserves such attention because Tuam has been designated as a hub town under the national spatial strategy? The Government can demonstrate its support for the national spatial strategy by making funding available.

In summary, does the Minister agree that matters other than the GAA's designation of Pearse Stadium as the leading stadium in County Galway need to be borne in mind when considering the application made by the Tuam Stadium committee? The Government should support Tuam Stadium for many reasons other than the advice of the GAA.

I do not doubt that the committee dealing with the affairs of Tuam Stadium is outstanding. I would not deny for a moment that the members of the committee do a considerable amount of voluntary work. Having been to Tuam Stadium, I agree it is a fine facility.

The difficulty we face in this regard relates to competing priorities. Pearse Stadium receives priority under the regional sports grants programme because it is the county ground of County Galway, as I have said. It has the priority backing of the Galway county board, the provincial council and the GAA's central council.

Tuam, which is designated as a hub town under the national spatial strategy, has certainly not been overlooked by the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. Three of the four applications which were submitted by interests in Tuam under the 2004 sports capital programme were successful. Three projects were provisionally granted funding, but the fourth project was not granted funding because it did not comply with the relevant conditions.

As Deputy McHugh said, Tuam is designated as a disadvantaged area under the sports capital programme because it is included in strand 2 of the RAPID programme. Applications from Tuam under the sports capital programme were prioritised within County Galway for that reason. Some €323,000 was provisionally allocated to the three successful projects in Tuam under the 2004 programme. My colleague, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, has allocated top-up funding of a further €96,000 to the three projects under the RAPID programme.

Deputy McHugh is aware that I have sanctioned a grant of €3.8 million to Galway County Council for the replacement of the existing swimming pool in Tuam. Some €960,000 of the grant has been paid to the council to date and construction work on the project is ongoing. I do not doubt that sporting and recreational facilities in Tuam and throughout County Galway have been greatly enhanced in 2004 as a result of Government funding.

The funding allocated to the Galway county board has been more than twice that given to other GAA county boards, with the exception of the Limerick county board which was given €1.88 million for the development of the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick city. Deputy McHugh can be consoled by the fact that his constituency is in pole position. We will examine whether we can provide further assistance this year and reconsider the issues relating to Tuam. I assure the Deputy that, as someone who supports Tuam and the west of Ireland, I will put my money where my mouth is.

I acknowledge the Minister's comments. I thank him for his support of the swimming pool and leisure facilities in Tuam, which are greatly appreciated. The Minister said in response to an earlier question that he should not tell the GAA what to do. Likewise, the GAA should not tell the Minister what to do in respect of Tuam.

No. I did not suggest that the GAA would or could do so.

The Minister should give the money to Tuam.