Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 11 Dec 1947

Vol. 109 No. 6

Committee on Finance. - Vote 74—Athletics.

I move:—

That a sum not exceeding £10 be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31 March, 1948, for a Grant towards the cost of providing athletic grounds in the vicinity of Dublin.

This Estimate is only for a token Vote. It is directed towards securing from the Dáil an approval in principle for a scheme for the encouragement of athletics in this country by way of the provision of facilities for their development. It is introduced now and in this fashion because of representations made by the various bodies controlling athletics in the country and because of certain proposals formulated by the Dublin Corporation in relation to the provision of facilities for athletics and athletic development. The ambit of the Vote is thus a rather narrow one and may, if the opinion of the Dáil favours such commitments, be extended to cover a much wider field. The Government's primary interest in the development of athletics is its concern for the national health and physique. In these days when so many of our young people find their livelihood in sedentary occupations, when manual work has been replaced in great measure by the machine, there is urgent need for the provision of an opportunity for indulgence in games and athletics and for encouragement thereof.

Team games in this country are fairly well organised and because they have a greater public appeal than track or field sports are supported by a reasonable revenue. This revenue enables the associations concerned to do a good deal in regard to the provision of playing fields but the lack of athletic grounds suitable for track and field athletics is the main barrier to the development of this type of athletics throughout the country. Team games are a first-class form of athletics. All athletes are for various reasons not fitted to participate in team games and because of this fact a special effort should be made to provide facilities for field and track athletics throughout the country. So as to prevent physical injury it is necessary that indulgence in athletics should be directed and in some measure controlled. Any physical injury resulting from athletic participation has been brought about by the unwise efforts of untrained men. Properly directed athletic pursuits will have an entirely beneficial physical effect and by weaning young men from the growing tendency to make the dance hall and cinema the only recreational outlet will also have a desirable effect on the character and outlook of the coming generation.

The Government is naturally concerned with a widespread participation in athletics rather than with the production of a few champions of international note, but these prodigies are a natural growth in the life of a nation in which athletics is part of the average man's recreation. Their emergence and achievements give a country-wide fillip to athletics and tend to raise the standard and widen the area of participation. The ideal to be aimed at is the provision wherever possible throughout the country of playing fields and other sporting centres; the promotion of athletic and recreational facilities and the establishment ultimately of a national stadium in which could be held periodic national or international games.

For this purpose it would be desirable to establish a national athletic council composed of persons prominent in the athletic world, acting voluntarily or for small fees, with a paid executive staff and this council should have placed at its disposal certain financial resources an annual subvention to meet its administrative expenses; further financial advances from the Exchequer to a maximum limit from which to make advances to athletic bodies for the provision of fields, equipment, etc., and a capital sum wherewith to build a national athletic stadium, which it would control, and the revenue from which would go to meet its administrative costs. The functions of the council shall be to:—

(i) Inquire into the existing facilities for athletic and recreational activities in Eire.

(ii) Direct attention to the value of such activities.

(iii) Encourage the promotion of local schemes for the promotion of further and better facilities for athletic and recreational activities.

(iv) Appoint qualified persons as organisers or instructors of athletic and recreational activities.

(v) Determine after consultation with the Minister the number, remuneration, duties and conditions of appointment of executive staff, organisers and instructors.

(vi) Make grants towards the expenses of local voluntary organisations for providing facilities for athletic and recreational activities including the provision of playing fields and other sporting centres.

(vii) Determine after consultation with the Minister in each case of an application for a grant the amount of such grant and the ratio which such grant shall bear to the total cost of the scheme proposed to be carried out with the help of such grant.

(viii) Prepare a scheme for the provision in Dublin of a national stadium.

The organisation shall make rules, approved by the Minister, governing the management of, letting for athletic and recreational purposes of, and charging for admission to, the playing field and/or sporting centre. The organisation shall furnish to the Minister annually or before an appointed date particulars of its activities during the previous year.

Because the only proposals so far before the Government are related to Dublin, the possible expenditure that may have to be undertaken this year relates to these proposals. But if the idea of athletic development is to be of any value it must relate to the whole country. Again, the total expenditure envisaged or likely to be needed should not, for obvious reasons, come from central funds. Any district from which demands come for facilities should be prepared to undertake a proportion of the cost. Otherwise impossible demands would be made on the Exchequer.

I am very anxious to get the views of Deputies on this proposal. I am interested in it, but these are in a great measure my own views and I would like them to be sandpapered against the views of others. I do think that this proposal is of value. I think that any proposal that induces enthusiasm in young people is of value to the country. I think such a proposal is bound to have very salutary effects on the physique of our young people, and I am not unmindful of the prestige which might accrue to the nation from the development of athletes of international note in this country. Other countries have been put on the map of the world by their athletes. At one particular time in the history of athletics we held a very high place among other nations. Due to the fact that facilities have been put at the disposal of athletic bodies in other countries, we no longer hold that place. Yet I do believe that we have material at all times capable of meeting the first flight of competition anywhere if properly trained.

Finally, I might say that I am not concerned with trying to develop the idea of producing a handful of athletes who would compete internationally. I am concerned with the participation generally of the young people of this country in every form of athletics. As I said, team games are well organised and have good support and are thereby enabled to carry on under their own steam. There is not the same popular support for field and track events. I wish again to emphasise that many prospective athletes in the country, because of certain defects of temperament and physique, are not capable of successfully playing team games. Men of slightly defective eyesight are not successful at team games and it would be well that we should open a door whereby they would enter into the participation of another form of athletics; that we should do as much as possible, with voluntary help also, to try to develop this side of athletics in the country for the benefit of our people and for the benefit of the nation.

I am very surprised at the Minister introducing this proposal in the fashion he has introduced it. This proposal in connection with athletics comes to us here in the guise of a Vote. We have got very meagre details from the Minister; we have got no financial details. We have just heard that a council will be set up. Until the Minister said that he personally was very interested in this and that it was his idea, I felt that I could say a whole lot of hard things about the scheme. We all wish, however, to see athletics encouraged in this country. We wish to see the young men and boys encouraged to make themselves stronger and healthier.

But I think it is really too much to ask the House to judge a whole scheme like this with very little in the way of details, on the basis of a £10 token Vote. I want to be quite fair to the Minister. I think it is a good idea but I think he should have brought in a Bill or some comprehensive measure and not just introduce this matter as an Estimate in the middle of the financial year and at the end of a Parliamentary session. It is quite a revolutionary idea and as such, I am not afraid of it, but I should like to know what it is going to cost and what it is going to mean. I know the Minister does not want to make athletics a professional matter. I think that is the last idea he has in mind, but the ultimate effect, whether this scheme tends to professionalise athletics or not, will depend on the details of the scheme. Many a man brought in a scheme of this character to find later on that his dearest wish in connection with the scheme could not be carried out. I can see that there are a great deal of dangers in connection with this question. One of them is that we are asked to hand the Minister a blank cheque. I do not think it is fair for him to ask that. I think we should be given many more details before we are asked to give our approval to something which is very new and the details of which we really have not before us.

I am a bit mystified at the Minister for Lands introducing a Supplementary Estimate to provide a sum of £10 for athletics. I must confess that nothing the Minister said has furnished the House with an explanation as to why he has introduced an Estimate of this kind. Whilst he talked about a commission which would be charged with administrative functions, he never told us what Minister he had in mind or to what Minister the commission would be responsible. I hope that if there is going to be any administration by a commission in respect to athletics that we will get some further information on to what Department the commission is going to be responsible because it seems to be a crazy kind of idea to imagine that it would be responsible to the Department of Lands, no matter who may be the Minister in charge of that Department.

My view of this whole matter would be related very largely to the standing and the efficiency of the Department to which this commission on athletics would be responsible. I should like the Minister to tell us to what Minister he was referring in his opening remarks on this Estimate. One of our difficulties in discussing an Estimate of this kind to-day, is that we have got very little information about it. We cannot measure what it involves nor can we ascertain to what extent this commission dealing with athletics is going to face up to the problem of endeavouring to develop athletics nationally in this country. My regret is that this idea did not fertilise in the Minister's mind three or four years ago so that the matter could have received much more detailed consideration than apparently it has received and so that the scheme could be given a canter through the public Press and an informed opinion created as to the best lines on which athletics might be promoted.

I think the Minister's statement is deficient in so far as it does not give us anything like a broad picture of what is contemplated nor does it give us any information even as to what kind of views are at present fertilising in the minds of the Government on this matter. However, when it comes to a matter of promoting athletics in this country, I am prepared to take almost any scheme in preference to no scheme because the position to-day is that athletics in this country are starved for want of money, starved because athletes who run at home or engage in athletics at home or in our name abroad, have no adequate training, have practically no financial resources behind them, leave their jobs perhaps on a Monday night, get the boat that night, and try to run in England the next day against competitors who have been trained and nursed so that they can enter these contests with a minimum of discomfort and fatigue.

The way in which our athletes run abroad has always been a source of admiration to me because they run under handicaps which no other country imposes on its athletes. They run solely supported by their natural physique and their desire to do credit to themselves and the country from which they come. We ought to end that system. Every other country devotes generous sums of money to the encouragement of athletics, not for the purpose of creating one or two or perhaps half-a-dozen international athletes but for the improvement of physique generally in the country. Much as we may pride ourselves on Irish physique in the past, I think nobody will deny that there has been a steady deterioration of the physique of the Irish people. If we are ever going to recapture that splendid physique which made many of our people international athletes we have got to set about the problem of encouraging athletes in every possible way by means of State help, State direction, State encouragement and national enthusiasm for the promotion of athletics. In that way we can help to develop not merely a better physique amongst our people at home but we can probably help to dissuade many youths from engaging in activities which lead primarily to juvenile delinquency and ultimately lead them into ways of vice and crime. I think that anything that could be done to gear up the nation to a policy of encouraging the development of athletics has everything to commend it from the point of view of developing the physique of our people, from the point of view of arresting the all too rapidly developing tendency towards juvenile delinquency and the growing crime statistics in respect of young persons.

As I say, other countries have long since learned the value to the physique of their citizens and the well-being of their country of promoting athletics. Here in this country where our people have such natural physical talent and where the need for maintaining a high standard of physique is no less than in other countries, I think we could do something by the maximum reasonable encouragement of schemes for promoting athletics in the country. The Minister says he does not want to create one or two or half a dozen athletes of international renown. Neither does anybody else nor does anybody want to see the development of professionalism in athletics. Even if the development of athletics here produced athletes of international renown, I think that would be all to the good of the nation, first, because it would enhance our reputation abroad, secondly, because it would ensure that our citizens will not be in the humiliating position of always being vanquished on the international athletic field, and thirdly, because the achievements in the international field of some of our athletes of renown would encourage at home the emulation of the same training and physical perfection as brought success on the international field.

If I were to ask any member of the House the name of the Prime Minister of Finland, I do not believe anybody could answer me. If I put that question to the two Ministers over there— what is the name of the Prime Minister of Finland—I do not believe they would be able to tell me. But, if I asked the Minister for Lands if he knew Nurmi and what he was renowned for, he would promptly say: "That is the famous Finnish runner." I believe that many of the athletes which Finland sent to the international athletic field were as good to Finland as any ambassadors or trade representatives. We ought to remember that every time an Irish flag goes up on an international field it is a beneficial reflection on this country and on the physical prowess of the representatives of this country.

There is nothing more heartbreaking in Britain or on the continent than to see Irish athletes generally, halftrained and under stress and strain, doing their best to send up the Irish flag in a contest. They are handicapped by the absence of these facilities which enable other countries to capture many trophies.

I hope that the seed sown by this Vote will fertilise rapidly and that we soon will have here an athletic organisation which will help to promote and develop athletics in the widest possible way. But this ought not to be purely a Government-made scheme for the promotion of athletics. I do not want to see athletics administered by a Government Department, nor do I want to see Civil Service files created about runners or other athletes, or files sent to the Department of Finance to know whether a few pounds could be spent in training a runner to compete in a given place on a given day and the Department replying: "Is the proposed subsistence allowance not too much? Does he need to stay in that hotel and would not a boarding-house do equally as well"? I want that type of mentality to be taken away from the development of athletics.

I want the Government to consult people of authority and standing in this matter, people with wide experience of athletics. I want to have things planned on lines calculated to yield satisfactory results. We can easily start off on this scheme in a gallop, but I suggest that the speed at which we travel is not half so important as the direction in which we are going. Therefore, I suggest to the Minister that if, after the coming election, this Government will have any responsibility for implementing the scheme—I am afraid it will not——

Are you prepared to take a bet?

I assure Deputy Ó Briain that I do not want to irritate him at all by referring to the election. I would prefer to withdraw the remark rather than do that. I submit that there ought to be wide and deep consultation on this matter with the best brains concerned with athletics in this country, so that we may satisfactorily run this scheme. Let us be generous in the cash allocations we make and then we may expect them to give us the best scheme possible for the promotion of athletics. We can in that way look forward to our athletes carrying our flag to victory in the international field. All genuinely concerned with the development of the physique of our people will aim at the establishment of the best possible scheme which will yield improved national health and a better reputation for our athletes in other countries.

In introducing this Estimate and, indeed, in the Estimate itself, the Minister has given very little information as to the lines upon which he intends this scheme to proceed. He rather disarmed the House by intimating that he was seeking to ascertain the views of the Deputies rather than to put forward anything very definite himself.

It is surprising to find this scheme being laid before the House by the Minister for Lands. It is difficult to connect the Department of Lands and the Land Commission with athletics. One would imagine, from what we know of the Department of Lands, that some from of still life or slow motion would be more in keeping with their activities—or inactivities—than athletics. Now, it may be the Minister's experience of still life in the Land Commission that has more or less inspired him to do something for the promotion of athletics.

There is another thing that might have influenced him—and it is difficult to keep forthcoming events out of every discussion here. He may have been influenced by some of his preliminary election skirmishes and he may have realised how necessary it is for politicians to be robust and athletic.

I have one great misgiving about this proposal and it is that we may eventually develop a Department of Athletics or a Department of Amusement or something of that kind, and everybody who aspires to take part in any outdoor games may be regimented and catalogued into a certain classification from which there is no escape. There is the danger that bureaucracy may to a large extent take control of athletics. That is a danger which we must guard against from the outset. Whatever we do we must preserve the independence and the integrity of the individual athlete and the athletic organisation. We must make it clear at the outset that whatever the State does it will be only by way of a small contribution towards the total funds required by the athletic organisation. If the State sets out to finance athletics completely, I am afraid it is inevitable that the State will take complete control over all branches of athletic activities, and that would be a tragedy beyond repair.

It may be a grand thing to have highly-trained, well-financed athletes competing with other nations in other countries, but if in order to secure that, we have to kill all independence and initiative in the pursuit of athletic games, I think the price we would have to pay would be too high.

I have one particular objection to this particular Estimate small as it is. In this, as in all other matters, we start at the City of Dublin, like the man who goes to build a house and starts with the chimney. I believe that the root of athletics, as of everything else, is in the rural areas and among the youth of the rural areas.

I remember when the ill-fated Public Health Bill was going through the Dáil, I put down an amendment to provide for playing fields attached to all national schools. I think that it is essential that every primary school should have some sort of playing field convenient to the building. Very many rural parishes, villages and towns may have such a playing field, but there are a large number where a playing field is not available and where it is very difficult to secure it. So let the State assist and help local initiative to secure them. That would be very desirable. I agree with the Minister that it is better not to provide a few highly-efficient athletes, but to ensure that every boy—and I suppose every girl — but certainly every boy in the country would get the opportunity of taking part in some sort of athletic game. So many people grow up, not only in the large towns but in the rural areas, who never had the advantage of being a member of a team or of taking part in any kind of athletic competition. There is a duty which should devolve on all publicspirited people to do everything possible to promote this effort.

It is unfortunate, I think, that there is always such a tendency towards fierce competition. Competition is desirable, but it eliminates at an early age young people who, perhaps, might be potential athletes, but who, because of their sensitiveness or for some other reason, feel that they cannot compete and never get back on the athletic field again. Somebody should undertake to encourage people who are inclined to lie back and not take part in athletics, and this is why I welcome the State assistance to provide playing fields, ball alleys and all the other amenities to promote athletics.

I could not gather very clearly from the Minister's statement what type of organisation would be set up to administer the funds. Evidently there must be some sort of organisation, as it would be absurd, of course, if the whole matter were left to the Minister for Lands, enthusiastic and zealous as he may be, or to the enthusiasm and zeal of his successor. Some organisation must be established to administer the funds and one of the biggest tasks will be to keep cranks out of such an organisation.

There is always a tendency of people who get control of matters of this kind to impose their own little ideas, whatever they are, on the rest of the community. Some cranks would feel that football should be played in a certain way or that some form of athletics should be carried out in a certain way. Those people will endeavour, if they are let do it, to dictate to the rest of the community. We have had an unfortunate experience with the Abbey Theatre. You had a very fine institution going very well until the State began to provide money for it; then the cranks began to come in and dictate the way the place should be run. It will be the same in athletics and we should be wide awake at an early hour to see that the cranks are kept in their own place. The organisation set up to administer the funds should be very carefully thought out and very carefully planned.

If the suggestion of the Minister were in any way to direct the athletic mind of this country towards internationalism, forgetting our own national development and characteristics, I would take this proposal with very serious reservations. But I am not at all surprised that this suggestion came from the Minister for Lands, because if we go back over the athletic records of this nation we will see that some of the finest athletes, some of the finest specimens of manhood—not taking from other parts of the country—came from the areas of North Cork, South Limerick and Tipperary. They have been very conspicuous on our national athletic fields at home and abroad, and brought much renown to this nation. From that point of view, I am not surprised that the Minister has in mind, perhaps, the development of that splendid characteristic of our nation.

Also, by reason of the fact that the Land Commission, when they were dividing big estates, provided parish playing fields in some parts of the country, it is only natural that the development of tracks and playing fields should come within the Minister's sphere.

What I am anxious about, however, is any centralised development of athletic sport under a centralised authority. If that tended to direct into certain international channels the wonderful enthusiasm and splendid developments of athletics in this country, I would be inclined to look upon it with disfavour. Still, there is a great lot in what the Minister has said. What he wants to get, to my mind, is some ideas from the members of the Dáil, so that the scheme, which is in the embryo stage, running through his mind at the moment, may be developed into something to our national advantage in the field of sport, particularly athletics.

With the mention of Dublin, other towns and urban areas ought to come to mind. How did the Minister omit handball courts which, to my mind, should be in every parish, particularly in the city, so that the youngsters who idle in street corners might find easy access to playing grounds where they might take part in games governed by rules, rather than lazily to stand at street corners or devote themselves to dances, cinemas and other indoor entertainments.

Has the Deputy read the Estimate? It does not deal with general or local activities. It has to do with the cost of providing athletic grounds in the vicinity of Dublin.

I think I am entitled to make some observations and criticisms by reason of the fact that it applies to Dublin only. For years past I have been trying to get a handball court provided by the Cork Corporation. The Handball Association have also made requests to the corporation but have not succeeded. When you want to devote funds to that purpose you find you are held up because there is no anxiety in that respect by those who control the public purse. When local enthusiasm is directed into the proper channels—when it can go to Dublin and such places, as it has in the past in other fields of sport—then there may be something in the idea that would call for our enthusiasm and support. At the present time I accept the general principle but I feel that the whole idea should be examined. Where exactly will it ultimately lead us? We all know that an effort was made in this country by those who were not nationally minded to control athletics. They tried to develop track events and to avoid field events. The Irish excel at field events. Fitness is required to bring out the best in the man. For track events cinder tracks are required which would give our athletes a basis of training which would enable them to compete in a fair way with the athletes of other countries when international competitions arise. It is regrettable that by reason of the growth of the crowds attending Croke Park the cinder track which used to be there had to be removed. That also applies to most of the Gaelic pitches throughout the country at the present time. As some speakers have pointed out, athletics in the past have been the natural growth of the physique and enthusism of the Irish race in some particular line of athletics.

If we provide this stadium now instead of developing from the school playgrounds, the parish athletic clubs, and the local organisations then we are starting at the wrong end. I would prefer, and of course the Minister's idea might work out in that direction, that some support should be given to local effort. Suppose a Gaelic club in the country has a field from the Land Commission which needs to be banked up. Suppose that field happens to be near a town in which there are unemployed men. I consider that instead of paying the dole to these men that they should be employed to bank that field with say, builders' rubble, that is being thrown into dumps. You will be told that it is a private concern, owned by the Gaelic Athletic Association or some such other club, and we cannot contribute towards men working on these fields. Until we support local effort by the proper provision of fields and tracks we will not get very far. The whole idea is based on local enthusiasm. I think we have an excellent arena in the Phoenix Park and that any man interested in athletics who can take a bus to it has a wide field of operation for himself. In consequence I would like to examine the whole matter from the very basis to see how ultimately it will develop. Until that is done I am asking the Minister for an assurance that those who are connected in that sphere of athletics in this country will be looked after. I know that anything the Minister brings forward is in the best national interests and also that he has in mind the bringing of the youth of the country into these open-air field activities which will be for their ultimate good.

I do not agree with those who say that the physique of our athletes has deteriorated. Everything goes to prove the contrary. In recent years our athletes upheld our name in the field of sport. They may not be making so many records now because, since the war, life is getting harder in nearly every way day by day. People are more inclined now to be spectators at racing and so forth rather than to indulge in activities themselves. If there is proper direction and development I think that the nation generally will benefit. It is a good sign that somebody is thinking as the Minister is thinking and that there are people interested in field sports of various kinds who are helping to develop the physique of our youth by providing sports fields and so forth particularly in the rural areas. For that we ought to be grateful to the Minister.

I welcome the proposals outlined by the Minister which are a step in the right direction. I hope they will lead to bigger things in the days to come. As one who believes and who has often said that this country has done less than any other country in Europe for its athletes or for those using playgrounds and playing fields, I welcome the Bill. One speaker referred to the fact that he hoped the Minister would put this into the hands of the right people. Another speaker—I do not think he meant to criticise unduly —said that people took sides in athletics. I hope the Minister will bring all parties together, even though they may have different views on track events or football. I agree with the speaker who said that when our flag is raised topmost in any country in the world we at home do not care very much what form of sport is concerned; we are all inclined to cry "Up Ireland". It is very satisfying when listening-in to a football match, or any sport event to hear the cheers when Ireland scores. Recently there was a big event in England and to those of us who listened in it almost seemed as if it were taking place in the Phoenix Park, so numerous were the cries of "Up Ireland". It is a peculiarity of other nations to judge the population of a country by their athletes. When our athletes do well they do credit to our country. When they go across the water or to the Continent they act almost as commercial travellers. They are judged and judgment of our trade follows almost automatically.

I think that any money spent on athletics is money well spent. Athletics brings out the best in young men and girls. They must be given proper facilities for training and proper facilities to play any game in which they wish to indulge. I hope the Government will remember that this is public money and does not belong to any one section of the community. It must be used to give encouragement to those who want to indulge in athletics whether it be baseball, football or soccer. I welcome the proposal. I think it is somewhat late, but better late than never. I wish the Minister every success in his efforts.

This is a rather extraordinary Estimate because £10 will go no distance towards providing even one athletic ground. The Minister let his fancy range. He mentioned a stadium. He spoke about athletics down the country but the Estimate specifically provides for athletics in the vicinity of Dublin. There is no cinder track in Dublin on which an athlete can train. I understand that if an athlete is going to run on cinders he must train on cinders; if he is going to run on grass he must train on grass. The Minister wants to provide something which is not available to either the cinder track or field athlete in Dublin who wants to train.

I think a committee is not the proper way in which to set this in operation. Obviously, when he speaks of a cinder track in the vicinity of Dublin, the Minister must have one in his mind. I would like him to look at the end of the road. Practically all the athletic grounds in the vicinity of Dublin are totally inadequate at the present time. Most games depend largely on the gates they draw. There are a number of sports in which contests cannot be staged because there is not sufficient accommodation for the general public to make the meeting a paying one. I have not got professionalism in mind at all, but there is no body of amateurs who can hold a sports meeting and continually lose money thereon. Practically all the clubs around Dublin have to find some subsidiary method of raising money when they want to send their representatives abroad. Even if these representatives are not very good performers the experience gained by them is valuable. They bring back a certain amount of expert knowledge.

I welcome this gesture but I do not think it goes far enough. The Minister mentioned a cinder track specifically. That would have to be laid down. The hedge around it may have to be cut, or a wall may have to be built. There would have to be a pavilion. There would have to be accommodation for spectators. There would have to be a groundsman to keep the ground in order. That could never be done on £10. If the Minister has something further in his mind will he tell us what it is? Is this gesture capable of elaboration and will more money be spent from time to time? It is no use the Minister embarking on the buying of a field in the vicinity of Dublin to discover that it is totally inadequate for its requirements. I think the Minister must tell us what he has in mind.

Has he in mind a field that would hold a crowd such as attends at Lansdowne Road or Croke Park? I remember being at Olympic Games in Holland. The ground there had been reclaimed. They had built a tremendous stadium for track athletics and alongside of that had built a swimming pool. That ground covered hundreds of acres. Is the Minister going to provide even one decent arena for games? The Minister should consider whether his ideas are big enough or, at any rate, are capable of being ultimately expanded so as to provide something like a national stadium for the various track athletics. Apart from the Phoenix Park and a privatelyowned ground, I do not think there is any place where such an athletic meeting could be held. When I was young I remember that cycling races were held at the Ballsbridge grounds. As the Horse Show developed, however, it elbowed out athletics, just as the Croke Park cinder track runners were elbowed out by the need for accommodating a bigger crowd. It looks as if the Minister will have to provide a place that ultimately could be used for international contests and which would accommodate an enormous crowd of spectators. That does not mean that the ordinary athlete could not train on it every day. Anything other than that as the ultimate goal would, in my opinion, be useless and would only prevent others from coming along and providing it.

Apparently, Deputy Dockrell does not understand that the Minister in bringing in this token Vote for £10 is flying a kite. The Minister wants to see what the reaction to it will be. The next Vote for this purpose will be——

Which can be spent before you see it.

Another £100,000 does not matter the way we are going. I welcome the introduction of this Vote which I think is very essential. The Minister for Lands is the proper person to undertake the acquisition of land for a suitable athletic arena. As there is a section in one of the Land Acts under which he can acquire land for that purpose, the Minister for Lands is the proper person to do it. Of course, I would rather see him acquiring land down the country for other purposes, but perhaps when he gets this done he can speed up the other matter.

I should like the Minister to give us some information as to the composition of the committee of management because, of course, he is going to hand this over to a committee of management to run. I should like to know whether the Gaelic Athletic Association, the Rugby Union, or what particular body of citizens will have control or will be the dominating force in the running of this particular arena. The Minister for Defence, who is, of course, a soccer player, may like one thing; the Taoiseach, as a rugby player, may want something else, and Deputy Seán McCarthy may want it for the Gaelic Athletic Association. I do not want to see the Government split into factions over this particular Vote. I should like to see them going down in harmony, anyway. I should not like to see them going too far apart. The Minister should give us some idea as to how he proposes to constitute the committee of management. He must realise the difficulties. The Gaelic Athletic Association, I expect, owing to their rules, cannot work in with the other two bodies, unless you get them to commit an act of national apostasy so far as they are concerned. The Minister should give us some indication as to who will form the committee of management. I presume that the Department of Lands are not going to do this thing themselves, but are going to hand it over to somebody.

The Olympic Games are to be held here in the course of a year or two. Is it the intention of the Minister to have this ground ready for training for these games? If so, he will want to get busy. I think it is a pity that the Vote was left over until now when the life of this Parliament is coming to an end. I do not know where the Minister is going to acquire the land. As it is proposed to be for the City of Dublin, he will not want to go too far from the city. I think he will have extreme difficulty in finding land suitable for the purpose. I am sorry I was not here when the Minister introduced the Vote, but I presume he gave some indication of that. So far as I am concerned and so far as this Party is concerned, the Vote has our approval. When the detailed Estimate is brought in, however, we will want much more information than has been given. We will require considerably more details than have been given. The putting down of a cinder track is a very slow and costly matter. If it is to be ready for training for the Olympic Games, the matter will have to be speeded up considerably.

I am rather pleased with the general reception of the proposal in regard to the development of athletics. Perhaps if I had been an older and more effective Parliamentary hand I would have introduced it in a more acceptable fashion but this is a token Vote and if it is accepted it does give me authority, at least, to discuss general proposals with interested parties and experts on the question of athletic development. I think that it would be politically fatal for all of us to suggest that any proposal of this sort should be confined to Dublin. I think the country is entitled to consideration, even much more than Dublin in matters of this sort. But the Estimate relates, as I pointed out, to immediate proposals which are engaging the consideration of the Dublin Corporation, and in order to co-operate with the corporation in its proposals, to try to be as helpful as possible, and with the desire that we generally have to get ahead somewhere with athletics, the Vote is being proposed.

Perhaps it would be at a later stage better to do what Deputy Dockrell suggested and bring in proposals in the form of a Bill, so that there would be general definite information regarding the ideas as they have been developed, but you might call this a trial balloon. It is unprecedented in many ways. A Bill brought into the House is generally brought in because there have been discussions on the matter outside, because public opinion has in one way or another expressed itself. There has been no public opinion expressed in this matter and no discussion other than some tentative discussions which I have had with the various organisations controlling field and track activities. I am not going to get into any difficulties with the Rugby Football Union, the Football Association of Ireland, or the Gaelic Athletic Association. All these deal with team games and I think handball would be outside the ambit of our proposals here. The provision of handball courts locally could be developed from the various grants provided for such a purpose, but no attempt has ever been made to deal with field and track athletics. I think that it is time that we should do something about it.

Deputy Norton spoke about Government control and Deputy Cogan referred to regimentation. If the development of athletics is not in great measure an outcrop of enthusiasm and voluntary effort, it is of very little use. Government control should be exercised only in so far as Appropriations-in-Aid of the athletic proposals are made. Regimentation of any kind would, I think, completely curb any development of athletics.

In regard to the formation of a committee, it would naturally be nonpolitical. We must try to get people who are most informed in this matter, who have given thought and study to it and, generally, you find them amongst old athletes and old promoters of athletics. I have discussed this matter, not with one organisation but with all the organisations dealing with field and track athletics here, and they are very anxious that the Government should push forward with the proposal.

The provision of a cinder track in Dublin is mentioned in the Vote. Deputy McCarthy is completely wrong if he thinks you can develop athletics because you have the Phoenix Park at your disposal. The better a performance on an athletic track is, the more enthusiasm you get among the general body of athletes and you cannot have any kind of decent performance on any ordinary fields. It is impossible to run in the Phoenix Park except in crosscountry competitions. For the ordinary sprinter or middle-distance man, if he is to develop as a speed merchant, you must provide a proper cinder track. There is no proper cinder track in this country. In announcements about various sports meetings, people say that they are going to have cinder tracks, but there was not one even in Croke Park because the track there was not a proper cinder track according to normal standards. The provision of a cinder track, as Deputy Dockrell pointed out, means the provision of an enclosure, the appointment of groundsmen and the observance of proper care that the track is kept in order and properly used. It is because we can, in association with the Dublin Corporation, get such a proposal put over in Dublin, that the Estimate comes before the House in the form in which it does.

I think I may take it that the House is generally in agreement with the point of view underlying this Estimate. I put it forward at this particular time because it does give an opportunity to members of the Dáil to consider it properly without definite commitments. If, after Deputies have considered it, and have informed themselves on the matter, the need for it arises, we can bring in a Bill giving the fullest information and drafted according to the lines which, we think, best serve the purpose.

It is essential to have cinder tracks and it is essential to have coaching. Cinder tracks and coaching are going to bring the standard of performance away beyond what it is at present and put it on the international standard, but it will not be possible to put such tracks everywhere. It will be possible to give athletes everywhere the benefit of coaching but it should not be our aim to provide the entire amount that is needed to provide a cinder track or any sort of equipment of that sort in any particular area without a definite local contribution.

If the Dáil accepts this, I shall have an opportunity of discussing it with people who are expert in regard to athletic promotion. Having done that, at a later stage I, or whoever is in my place, will have an opportunity of putting before the House a fully informed proposal for discussion.

Deputy Norton suggested it was not the business of the Minister for Lands to bring such a proposal before the House. It possibly would fit in better with the Minister for Health, the Minister for Education, or even the Minister for Defence, but because I am particularly interested and associated with athletics, I have been entrusted for the moment to deal with it. At a later stage, when we bring in a Bill, it might be wise if another Department, better suited to the development of athletics, would be put in control.

You will do rightly.

Vote agreed to.