Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Questions (34)

David Stanton

Question:

84 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his policy priorities in relation to sports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24597/08]

View answer

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

My policy priorities in relation to sport are set out in the Programme for Government and are articulated further in the Department's Statement of Strategy 2008-2010. The overriding objective which will drive the development of policy will be accessibility and participation for all in sport. I intend to put in place a policy framework building on the important role that sport plays in the social, economic and health areas of Irish life. Under the National Development Plan 2007-2013, it is planned to provide almost €1 billion for the development of sports facilities at national, regional and local level. A total of €568 (excluding the €107 million for the redevelopment of Croke Park) has already been allocated in sports capital funding since 1998 under the Sports Capital Programme to over 6,700 sports facility projects.

One of the major issues to be addressed is the introduction of a more strategic targeted approach to the funding of projects and to identify and address gaps in provision. The development of a National Sports Strategy by the Department will provide high-level policy direction for future investment and grant assistance at national, regional and local level. A Value for Money and Policy Review Report of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme has been completed by the Department. The Report examined, among other things, how the Programme has worked to date, and what changes are required to ensure its effective and efficient delivery in the future. The recommendations in the Report will be used to assist in formulating future policy in this area and will be incorporated into any new round of the Programme. I intend to publish the Report shortly.

The launch of a new Programme will be a matter for discussion as part of the Estimates process, which will start shortly between this Department and the Department of Finance. A sum of €184m has been provided in the National Development Plan 2007-2013 for supporting existing projects in the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme and for new projects to be selected following the launch of a new round of the Programme, as provided for in the Programme for Government. Since the establishment of the Irish Sports Council in 1999, over €300 million has been provided to the Council towards initiating, developing and enhancing a wide range of programmes aimed at increasing participation and raising standards in Irish sport. The Department will continue to support the ISC to allow it to realise the commitments of its strategic plan to increase participation in sport and to improve the levels of performance by our elite athletes in world-class competition.

In relation to the horse and greyhound racing industries, Government support is provided under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund, which was established under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act, 2001 for the purpose of further developing both racing industries. This Fund has provided a guaranteed level of funding to Horse Racing Ireland and Bord na gCon. To date the Fund has not only helped towards providing some top class venues and facilities, but it has also underpinned significant employment in both industries. In 2004 the Government agreed to increase the aggregate limit on the Fund from €254 million to €550 million, to allow for continuation of the Fund for a further four-year period. A review of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund is being undertaken and any extension of the Fund will require the approval of the Government and the Oireachtas.