I propose to take Questions Nos. 323, 324 and 326 together.
The Government has demonstrated its commitment to women's sport over many years, and considerable Exchequer funding has been allocated to programmes aimed at encouraging active and social participation in sport by women and girls. A fundamental aim of the Government’s National Sports Policy 2018 -2027 is to increase the levels of participation in sport and physical activity across the population over the period of the policy, with a specific focus on less represented groups including women and girls.
Sport Ireland, which is funded by my Department, is the statutory body with responsibility for the development of sport, including the allocation of funding under its various programmes. It also has responsibility for the development of strategies for increasing participation in sport, including participation by women and girls. In 2019, Sport Ireland launched its Policy on Women in Sport. The policy expresses Sport Ireland’s commitment to women in sport. It builds on the significant work that has already been undertaken in this area within the sport sector to date and, in recognising the opportunity to make a significant impact on the lives of women through their involvement in sport, it provides a blueprint for Sport Ireland’s future work.
Sport Ireland does not provide funding direct to clubs but channels its funding through the National Governing Bodies of sport (NGBs). In additional to funding allocated to NGBs under core grants and high performance programme, Sport Ireland also allocates funding to NGBs under the Women in Sport (WIS) programme. The WIS programme was established in 2005 and has provided funding support of over €20 million to a broad range of programmes aimed at increasing participation by women and girls.
As part of the new Women in Sport Policy, a revised Women in Sport investment programme was launched last year with an investment of €3 million over the two years 2019 and 2020. This doubled the funding for the Women in Sport programme. The two year funding will enable NGBs to make significant progress in their strategic objectives for women in sport.
Insofar as media coverage of women’s sport is concerned, although the current situation represents an improvement the case for further improvement is compelling. The Federation of Irish Sport's 20 x 20 campaign has highlighted the important association that media coverage has with driving increased participation amongst the female population. Whilst coverage decisions are ultimately matters for the media organisations concerned, whether in the print or broadcast setting, I fully support greater visibility being given in all sections of the media to our many exceptional and talented female athletes. The more these are lauded, valued and respected in the public arena, the more likely it is that young girls will be inspired to follow suit.
The Irish Times and Sport Ireland support women in sport with The Irish Times Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year Awards which recognise the abilities and achievements of women in Irish sports. Through their partnership they have highlighted the tremendous achievements of Irish Sportswomen across a range of sports, and they are committed to continuing to raise the profile of Irish Sportswomen.
I am arranging for Sport Ireland to provide the Deputy with a comprehensive outline of its strategies and initiatives in place to increase participation by women and girls. Please contact my private office if you do not hear within ten working days.
In relation to Sports Capital Programme, one of the key criteria in scoring applications has always been whether the proposed project will increase participation and in this regard the scoring system for the most recent round of the SCP specifically references the likelihood of increasing female participation. A full Review of the 2018 round of the SCP has now been complete and the terms and conditions of the next round of the programme will be announced before the end of the month. I expect that projects likely to increase female participation will continue to be prioritised when these terms and conditions and the scoring system are finalised.