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 among young people. The provision in funding for the Irish Sports Council in the 2004 Estimates is over €30 million, in comparison to just over €13 million in 2000.
This Government recognises the major role that sport can play in the lives of young people. The Irish Sports Council is responsible for a number of initiatives aimed at encouraging young people to participate in sport. There are currently 16 local sports partnerships in operation around the country. One of the central aims of the local sports partnerships is to create greater opportunities for participation by all in sport and to ensure that resources are co-ordinated and used to their best effect at a local level.
The sport for young people grant scheme is promoted through vocational education committees which do not currently have local sports partnerships in their areas to create sporting opportunities to participate in sport for young people, particularly those in areas of social and economic disadvantage. This grant scheme is open to the vocational education committees. The designated areas scheme-underage participation scheme provides 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.
My Department and the Irish Sports Council maintain an ongoing liaison with the Department of Health and Children in relation to matters of mutual concern. Officials of the Department and the council have actively participated in the development of key initiatives such as, for example, the national children's strategy, the national children's play and recreation policy, healthy heart strategies. My Department has also contributed to the task force on obesity established by the Department of Health and Children and which is being chaired by Mr. John Treacy, chief executive of the Irish Sports Council.
Finally, the European Year of Education through Sport 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. My Department, the Departments of Education and Science and Health and Children as well as the Sports Council and other relevant bodies are represented on the national steering committee of the European Year of Education through Sport 2004.