Wednesday, 20 October 2004

Questions (57)

David Stanton

Question:

153 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the Government policy on sport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25529/04]

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

The Government policy objective for sport is to promote and encourage an active sports sector, with increased participation in sport, especially by young people in areas of disadvantage and to support the provision of good quality, sustainable facilities and opportunities for people to play an active role in sport. In order to contribute to a more healthy lifestyle, it is vital that people of all ages and from all backgrounds have equal opportunities to engage in sporting activity and are encouraged to participate at the level which suits their needs. In addition, the Government, through the strategies of the Irish Sports Council supports the pursuit of excellence and success in national and international competition by our elite sportsmen and sportswomen.

My Department's statement of strategy 2003-05 has identified the key areas to be addressed. These include the creation of expanded opportunities to participate in sport through facilitating the provision of sporting facilities at local, regional and national level with a particular emphasis on providing facilities for young people in disadvantaged areas. It underpins the important role of the Irish Sports Council in assisting with the provision of sports programmes.

This departmental strategy for sport guides the actions of the Irish Sports Council in its promotion and development of sport as outlined in its own statement of strategy 2003-05, Sport For Life, which maps out a threefold strategy: to increase participation in sport; to create an environment to develop sporting abilities; and to enable our best sports people to achieve world class standard. The Irish Sports Council has been allocated funding of €30.7 million for 2004 to operate a range of initiatives and programmes from the Buntús primary schools programme and the youth field sports programme all the way up to the high performance strategy and international carding scheme.

My Department's sport capital programme has been enormously beneficial to clubs, sports organisations and voluntary and community groups, directing funds to virtually every village, parish and town throughout the country. Since 1998, on the sports capital side alone, my Department has allocated almost €331 million to over 4,200 projects around the country to assist towards the cost of providing sport and recreational sport facilities. In consultation with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, 1,266 projects located in areas designated as disadvantaged have been allocated funding of over €121 million in the four year period 2001-04.

The tax relief on donations to certain sports bodies scheme, established under section 847a of the Taxes Consolidation Act came into effect on 1 May 2002. Since then 83 projects, drawn from nine sporting disciplines and with a total project cost of €76 million, have been approved by my Department.

Under the local authority swimming pool programme, my Department is committed to supporting 55 local authority swimming pool projects throughout the country. Delivery of this programme is well underway with a total €43 million paid out in the period 2000-04 with 14 projects completed, eight under construction and the remaining 33 projects at various stages.

The Government decision earlier this year to support the redevelopment of a 50,000 all seated stadium at Lansdowne Road in association with the IRFU and FAI along with a sporting campus at Abbotstown is further progress towards bringing our national sporting infrastructure into the 21st century alongside other recent national projects such as the national aquatic centre and the national rowing centre at Inniscarra. I am satisfied that we now have in place a vibrant policy through which persons of all ages can participate in sport.