Private Members' Business. - National Stadium: Motion (Resumed).

The following motion was moved by Deputy Allen on Tuesday, 30 January 2001.
That Dáil Éireann:
–noting the Taoiseach's insistence on building a national stadium;
–noting the rate of inflation in the construction industry and the likelihood that the project will cost at least IR£1 billion;
calls on the Government to cease all work on the national stadium with the exception of the aquatic centre and instead:
(i) to redirect funding to assist and support the GAA and the FAI in completing Croke Park and Eircom Park respectively,
(ii) to enter negotiations with the IRFU regarding funding for their stadium development programme, and
(iii) to redirect money to be spent on the national stadium to the development of sporting infrastructure at regional, club, schools and community level in accordance with the Sporting Facilities Development Programme to be formulated by the Irish Sports Council in consultation with sporting and community organisations.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann:" and substitute the following:
–reaffirms the Government's decision to proceed with the plans for the development of Campus and Stadium Ireland as agreed by the House on 9 February 2000;
–notes the intention to complete the project on a value for money, cost effective basis;
–welcomes the progress made to date by Campus and Stadium Ireland in progressing the Government decision; and
–notes the Government's significantly increased financial provision under the sports capital and local authority swimming pool programmes for the development of facilities throughout the country at local, regional and national level.
–(Minister for Tourism, Sport and

On 30 January of this year, the executive chairperson of Sports Campus Ireland, Mr. Paddy Teahon, wrote to the chairperson of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy Breda Moynihan-Cronin, to apologise to her for misleading the Committee on 14 September 2000 concerning the cost of the national stadium. Mr. Teahon went on to say that his incorrect figures were "subsequently reflected in briefing material used by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation when replying to Parliamentary Questions in the Dáil."

It is quite remarkable that Mr. Teahon misled the committee on September 14 last, and subsequently the Taoiseach and the Minister, but did not discover his error until it was highlighted in the "Prime Time" programme two weeks ago. Anyone can make a mistake, but it is remarkable that Mr. Teahon's memory of an event which occurred on 14 September was only triggered following the "Prime Time" programme. The erroneous figure has been repeated in countless print media and yet Mr. Teahon, whose principal focus is supposed to be the stadium project, did not ever query the origins of the figure nor sought to correct it. When it was used and relied on by Members on both sides of the House on several occasions, there was still no correction forthcoming. When Mr. Teahon and his colleagues met the Labour Party leader, Deputy Quinn, myself and other colleagues on 26 October 2000 – some nine days after the exchanges in the House – he made no attempt to correct the figure. However, when "Prime Time" showed a video recording of the Taoiseach misleading the House at Question Time on 17 October, Mr. Teahon suddenly discovered that he was the author of the incorrect figures.

Frankly, it beggars belief that not just the Opposition but the Taoiseach and the responsible Minister were allowed to proceed on an artificial figure based on an error of no less than £51 million. The kindest conclusion to which one can come is that nobody cares how much this project costs the taxpayer. It does not seem to matter how many noughts are added to the bottom line. The Taoiseach wants his vanity project and he will get it. Is it not remarkable that neither the Minister responsible, the Taoiseach who is promoting the project or the management charged with delivering it noticed an error of £51 million in the costings?

This raises questions about the reliance that can be placed on the remainder of the figures relating to this project. We now know from the data secured under the Freedom of Information Act that the alarming cost of clearing the park has escalated from £90 million to £160 million. Can Members imagine anyone entering the House a number of years ago with a proposal to clear the park at such a cost? In the article inThe Irish Times Mr. Teahon referred to the BSE situation being so serious that this would be warranted in any event. I do not believe anyone would seriously buy into that.

In the same article inThe Irish Times on 29 January, in setting up an escape hatch for the Taoiseach who had misled the House, Mr. Teahon calmly records that “the Stadium cost (£230 million) had not changed, but the campus cost had.” He proceeds to say that the “initial guideline cost of £51 million for a Stadium of sporting excellence” had now become “a sound estimate of the cost of the campus is £320 million.” Just like that. We were given an explanation as to how £281 million became £230 million and now we have been provided with an explanation to show how £51 million became £320 million. The cost of the stadium will remain at £230 million – although we have empirical evidence to the contrary – while the cost of the campus has risen from £51 million to £320 million. Add in the cost of clearing the site at £160 million and the total cost has already reached £710 million.

The flat percentage rate system payable under the contract to the interests associated with delivering the project means that the higher that figure goes, the larger the amount of money those interests will extract from it. In addition to the £50 million supposedly committed by the J. P. McManus syndicate, Mr. Teahon hopes "the private sector will be prepared to invest £150 million in the project, mostly for commercial facilities." However, we have just seen the FAI being forced into partnership talks with the private sector because it could not stack up the economics due to the fact that some members of its board were not prepared to proceed on the basis of promises from the corporate sector. What is the status of the promise that a further £150 million will be forthcoming from the private sector for Abbotstown?

All of this and no anchor tenant. The Comptroller and Auditor General in France has just completed a study on the fiasco associated with the construction of theStade de France for the World Cup. The problem that arose in France was that after the World Cup there was no anchor tenant for the stadium. Paris St. Germain refused to take up occupancy of this 80,000 seater stadium and there is now available on the Internet a report by the French Comptroller and Auditor General about this debacle, which arose as a result of the fact that there was no anchor tenant to finance the ongoing operations of the stadium.

I appreciate that the Taoiseach's men believe that they will ultimately be able to make the FAI an offer it cannot refuse. However, what if the FAI proceeds on a joint venture basis with Eir com Park? Even if it does not, do we have to spend the sports budget for the next ten years on the "Bertie Bowl"? We already have an 80,000 seater Stadium at Croke Park, towards the cost of which the Exchequer has made some contribution. The FAI wants to build its own stadium possibly necessarily in partnership with the private sector. Lansdowne Road remains an ideally located ground. If we need another stadium, we most certainly do not need two. There simply are not enough events to pay the bills.

Meanwhile, the sports infrastructure throughout the country, desperately needs investment. Voluntary activists are struggling to raise money and provide what are often basic facilities for all kinds of sporting clubs. A fraction of this money could transform sporting endeavour in local communities.

Initially I supported this project. I thought it was a good idea to build such a stadium. At that time the £50 million supposedly committed by J.P. McManus was a generous gift from someone who spent most of his life avoiding paying tax here. However, we will not look a gift horse in the mouth. That £50 million was a major proportion of the cost at the time but it would not buy the perimeter fence now.

The cost of this project has escalated beyond belief and will starve the ability to put money into ordinary clubs up and down the country for the next ten years. The most important point of all is that, while we will be able to sign the cheque, how are we going to run the stadium? From where will the events come?

It seems rational that if we must have another stadium it ought to be more comparable in cost to the stadia built across the West in recent years. In an article inThe Irish Times I set out a table detailing the costs from Munich to Dublin over the past number of years. Deputy O'Shea drew attention to the American study which showed an average overrun of 73.4% on 15 stadia recently built in the US. I cannot see how Mr. Teahon can claim the cost will remain static.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Noel Ahern and Fahey.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate which is the second time we have examined sport in recent times. I was taken by many contributions to this debate, particularly by that of Deputy Deenihan. The Deputy made an honest and open admission that when Fine Gael spokesperson on sport he was in favour of this kind of project.

It is important that this project is rigorously examined. However, we should also try to set our prejudices aside when discussing this issue. I have great respect for Deputy Rabbitte but the proposed site at Abbotstown was identified as the site for the national business park some years ago. That park is now located at Citywest which is near if not in Deputy Rabbitte's constituency. Eircom Park, the FAI's proposed stadium, will be in roughly the same location. However, I am not suggesting Deputy Rabbitte's views are tinted by what might benefit his constituency.

The debate on this issue is reminiscent of debates regarding, for example, the restoration of Dublin Castle, the bringing on stream of the Royal Hospital, Government Buildings and Knock Airport which were derided as unrealisable dreams by some. However, everyone is now claiming credit for those ideas and the work carried out on them.

I do not think the same derision would be heaped on this proposal if we were talking about locating the national centre for the performing arts or a national gallery or national library at Abbotstown. There are times when there is a class snobbishness about this debate in that sport is for the ordinary person and not regarded as part of the finer things in life. Certain locations endured the same kind of derision when they looked for projects such as those I mentioned. Limerick was a case in point when it looked for a university. There was also a ferocious battle over the siting of NIHE Dublin, now DCU.

Like any other endeavour, sport ought to have levels of excellence from participation at the most basic level, whether by playing games and giving up at the age of 13 or 14, to move on to a more sedentary occupation such as golf. However, there has to be a place where the best talent can be exhibited. That is what the national stadium is about and what the discussion ought to be about. We are not talking about just another football stadium. We are talking about, for example, swimming facilities for which planning permission has been sought. Hopefully the swimming pool will be ready for the 2003 Special Olympics.

We are also talking about a variety of indoor and outdoor facilities and sports medicine training facilities. There will also be headquarters for sporting organisations. I am not sure if the house of sport is still on the Long Mile Road. That building was leased by smaller sporting organisations which divided the office space. Those organisations do not have national headquarters and can be located at the new facility. The Irish Ice Hockey Association has to travel to Newry or Enniskillen to participate in its sport. Such facilities can be concentrated at the new national stadium.

The stadium for the Sydney Olympics was built largely on a landfill site and such a site at Dunsink is part of the proposed location for the national stadium. This project will grow organically but not much of it will be delivered within the lifetime of this or the next Government. It will be many years before the whole complex is in place but I am anxious that this area of north-west and west Dublin benefits by way of significant infrastructural development.

There will be a large housing development at Pelletstown, not far from the proposed site of the stadium. The airport is also close by and it is important that we construct a rail line linking the city centre, Pelletstown and Dublin Airport, taking in the stadium. Such a link will be provided and will add significantly to the infrastructure which many of us would like to see. Some people may be mischievously ignoring the fact that this infrastructural development will be an additional benefit for the community in that area.

I agree with the principle of also promoting sport at other levels. The Minister of State, Deputy Ryan, is in the House. I pay tribute to him and the Minister, Deputy McDaid, for their investment in sport. I also pay tribute to Deputy Rabbitte for his work when he held the drugs portfolio. The youth services and facilities fund kick-started many positive developments, the results of which we are now seeing. Only today I saw some of the progress being made in Dublin. For example, the swimming pool in Ballyfermot is being extensively used. I hate to be parochial, but work will commence in May on a multiplex in Finglas providing a swimming pool, child care facilities, youth centre and indoor and outdoor facilities to be delivered within 18 months. This complex will cater for young people who have to train and play in less than satisfactory conditions, without proper shower facilities or whatever. These facilities are being delivered.

A new pool is being planned for Ballymun. There is also significant investment in existing football and other sports clubs. Throughout the country there is a growing level of investment in infrastructure. This is the important second layer which is being put in place. The first layer in which I wish to see more investment, is under-age sport. Apart from the £10 million the Sports Council has to spend on sport, £2.5 million was made available to the national governing bodies of sport, the GAA, the FAI and IRFU, in the budget to encourage greater participation by young people in sport and £0.5 million was made available to encourage greater participation by older people. I call on those organisations to spend that money substantially in areas of disadvantage, where people have not had a chance of making a clean break.

If we invest in the provision of facilities at community and regional level, it makes sense to provide facilities for excellence to attract significant tournaments to this country. That is an industry in that thousands of people travel to see the Superbowl and millions of people travel to see the Olympics, the Special Olympics and the Winter Olympics. Therefore, significant tournaments could benefit our economy and lead to the creation of jobs.

I am not in the least concerned about the rigorous examination this project is undergoing. That is only right. I support its examination, but it deserves all party support because it is needed as part of our sports infrastructure.

While I might not always agree with some of the issues Opposition parties raise, I often understand their point in raising them, even if I vote against the motion tabled. However, on this issue, I cannot understand the objection from Fine Gael and to a lesser extent from Labour to the building of a national stadium. It does not make sense. If anything, we on this side of the House hear the Opposition parties talk about the slowness of the implementation of the national development plan, the lack of infrastructure, etc., and we all share some of those sentiments, but when it comes to somebody doing something about a project – the Government is moving ahead on the national stadium and campus – the Opposition says it is against it. That does not make sense. I am trying to be fair and objective. I accept that on other occasions I might have said the Opposition was wrong about its position on an issue while privately I might have thought it was right, but in this case by any criteria, including its own, its actions have been crazy. I do not know from where the policy or objection came and why the Opposition continues to run with it. The only summary of it seems to be the notion that, "you lot are doing it, therefore, we are against it". It is totally illogical and quite often members of Fine Gael talk about vision and the lack of it but this is a case where vision has been shown on this side of the House, yet the Opposition seems to be against the project and to have adopted a small minded attitude. I suggest it bounces its policy off some non-party, fair minded people, be they involved in sport or otherwise, and I think it would get a fairly negative response as most people think this project is a great idea.

Some people say it is wrong to put the money into a national campus, that it should be put into clubs at local and regional levels. I was sports mad at one stage. I am all for money being invested in sport at all levels, and that is happening. Every constituency has been given generous grants in recent years. There is a Department with responsibility for sport which I hope will continue under future Governments. Responsibility for sport does not come under the Department of Education and Science, as it did in the past; it is a separate Department fighting its own battle and securing money for sport at all levels. If Members were fair, they would acknowledge that the problem experienced by clubs has been in trying to spend the money they have been allocated under the former Rainbow Coalition and under this Government. Many clubs that have sought funding have only drawndown a portion of the money allocated due to the difficulty of getting builders to do the work, and that is an ongoing problem.

Money is being provided for sport at all levels. Deputy Carey, with whom I share a constituency, mentioned some of the facilities in our patch, but the same argument in terms of the youth facilities and services fund and sports grants could be made in respect of facilities in any other constituency. A major project is under way in Finglas and I hope a similar one will be located in Ballymun. There is also the new indoor arena for Santry Stadium. I am sure Members could rattle off major projects in their constituencies as well as the sports clubs at different levels that have been allocated generous grants. Everyone who plays sports deserves access to proper facilities. Too often when we were young many of us had to tog out in facilities that were sadly lacking, but matters have moved on and many people involved in various sports have access to good facilities. It is not a case of there being one big national stadium or spreading the money around. Thankfully, we can do both and we are doing both. That should not be lose sight of.

This project started off as the national stadium and many of us are locked into that idea, but it has developed greatly from that. I welcome that it will be much more than one big stadium; it will have indoor and outdoor facilities. There are many minority sports that have not been very well catered for in the past and whose facilities have been sadly lacking. Many of the people involved in those sports can look forward to having good facilities and not having to share facilities or use a facility for a half day once a year.

Last night I heard a speaker going on about Croke Park, asking why we need a second stadium. That amused me, given that when the planning application was being considered for the development of Croke Park four, five or more years ago, it was a battle to get it through. There was a bit of a political divide and some people spoke against it. While thankfully the divide was not on purely party lines, many of the people who were against it are those asking why we need another stadium and can Croke Park not cater for soccer, rugby and every other sport.

Events in Croke Park pose a problem for many people living in its vicinity. I accept there are many advantages in having a stadium in a city centre or in an area where there is lots of life, pubs and restaurants nearby. In an ideal world it would be great if a location in the docks area could be found for a stadium such as this, but people have to live in the shadow of places such as Croke Park and the holding of events there also causes problems for people in the wider area of Fairview, Marino, Drumcondra and Ballymun. Many of those people have to put up with an awful lot of grief from early May until end September, Sunday after Sunday, and now more often with matches on Saturdays and replays. It is not fair to tell those people that, from a national economic point of view, all sports should be played on that pitch, that there will be soccer matches in the autumn and rugby matches in the winter and they will have to suffer the hassle that is part of that weekend after weekend, particularly when that stadium is in the middle of a residential area, and I do not know if the pitch would stand up to that level of activity. Outside that, it would not be fair or proper to inflict any more on the people.

When Deputy Gay Mitchell was Lord Mayor of Dublin he set up a body—

A commission.

Whatever. The body was to try to tap into sports tourism. I am a member of Dub lin Tourism and tourism in the city is flying, having developed in many respects, but sports tourism is a major aspect of tourism in many cities. Deputy Mitchell was to the forefront in this when thinking of the ultimate goal, the Olympics, and there is no harm in any of us having a dream, even if it seems distant. He was very forward thinking because there are many events bigger than rugby and soccer internationals or All-Ireland finals, such as UEFA cup finals and the Rugby World Cup. Many events that could be exploited in sports tourism would not necessarily draw 80,000 people. Some years ago an over 40s rugby tournament in Dublin attracted 10,000 spectators.

Deputy Mitchell had the idea that we could develop a stadium and develop uses for it. He had a committee working on that which came up with very good projects. The Olympics might be far down the line but there are many other events such a stadium could cater for. Some of them might not even be sporting events, as the stadium could boost business, tourism and jobs also. I cannot understand the negativity and lack of vision coming from Fine Gael on this matter. Since the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation was set up my constituency has done very well and we hope the redevelopment of Ballymun gets the green light one of these days.

It amazes me that we spend up to £5 billion per year on health and yet we do very little in health promotion. Anything to do with sport is health promotion. It may involve anything from the local under 11 team looking for jerseys to an event attended by 80,000 people. Everyone needs dreams. Though rugby players do not come from disadvantaged areas in Dublin, if one goes to such an area and asks a successful soccer or rugby player what gave him his original dream of involvement in sport, he will not say it happened when he was 11 on a wet Saturday morning in the Phoenix Park. It happens when he sees his father, cousin or school play a game. That is what sets a dream in motion. The huge stadium is linked to the under 11 team at grassroots level. It takes years of training and striving to get from one to the other and they are all part of the one dream and activity. It is ridiculous to think the top level can be supported without having a nursery and equally, one cannot have the nursery without the top level. No matter what business one is in, everyone wants to perform at the top level. Even in this Chamber every Member wants to be on the front bench.

This is a very good idea. It will not just be a big stadium out in the wilderness but will be just beyond my constituency. It may be beyond the housing areas at present but it will bring activity and jobs to that area. People will not necessarily have to go back into the city centre for a pint or a meal; pubs, restaurants and other businesses will evolve in the area. I am totally behind this stadium. It is a good idea that should be pushed ahead so that existing fears about it fade away. It will take a couple of years to do this but I support it fully.

I disagree fundamentally with the Fine Gael policy on this matter, having spent five years from 1987 to 1992 as Minister of State with responsibility for sport. I tried hard to get a national stadium off the ground but at that time the problem was money. The need for an outdoor stadium, indoor and outdoor arenas and a swimming pool was urgent then and is much more urgent now. It would be short-sighted of us not to not take an opportunity to build a monument for the future when the economy is going well. It is crazy to suggest this money should be spent on sports clubs around the country. Money needs to be spent on such clubs but we also need a major facility in which the people can watch sport and in which major future sporting events can be held.

Deputy Gay Mitchell announced a very good initiative to bring the Olympics to Ireland when he was Lord Mayor of Dublin but we could not contemplate doing so without this specific facility. We need one major outdoor facility which can accommodate 80,000 people. We will have that in Croke Park but it will not be able to accommodate everything. The pitch will not be able to handle all the rugby, soccer and GAA games and there will be no lights there, so we need a second stadium with the capacity for 80,000 people. We know that it is impossible to get tickets for any big game and that the only way an ordinary Joe soap can get a ticket is through luck.

It is vitally important that the soccer, rugby and GAA organisations get together and support this project. I do not understand the FAI's attitude. It is being handed a state of the art football stadium, the finest in the world, for little or nothing but it still wants to proceed with a half-baked plan to build a 45,000 seater stadium. We know that 45,000 is insufficient capacity for a major international. The real tragedy of the FAI's approach is that a small club on the west side of Galway which looks after children on the street has had a major struggle to stay alive for the past few years. It cannot pay referees or transport costs yet those at the top of the FAI say they can spend £165 million and tell the Government to go to hell. That makes no sense and I appeal to the FAI to abandon this idea.

How about giving them sufficient finance to build it properly?

I respect Deputy Enright but two stadia are not needed for soccer. One major stadium is needed which can contain 80,000 people for four or five soccer games per year.

It will command the same number of people for three rugby internationals. That is eight games, which is as many as there will be. There is no need for a second soccer stadium to accommodate that number. I am sure small stadia for club football could be accommodated and I appeal to the FAI to take up the offer. Sports organisations in most countries would grab an offer by the Government of a state of the art stadium at a cost of £230 million. I do not understand why the FAI will not accept the offer.

This opportunity will not come again. There was a proposal in 1991 to build an indoor arena that would hold 15,000 people. A site was acquired in the docklands and five consortia agreed to tender for the project. Unfortunately, the Department of Finance decided in its wisdom at the time that the State could not afford it. It would have cost a total of £36 million and it would have been partly financed by the private sector. We could have had a state of the art indoor facility for that amount ten years ago, but we did not have the foresight to proceed. We will be in the same position in ten years if the national stadium does not go ahead now. It will cost double the amount to build then if we decide to abandon it now.

It is the right project and the Taoiseach and the private sector have shown great support for it and leadership with regard to it. I urge the Fine Gael Party to forget about this motion which does not make sense. The stadium must go ahead and it will happen. It will be a great monument to the politicians of this era who had the foresight to put it in place.

Mr. Coveney

I wish to share my time with Deputies Crawford, Stanton, Ring, Reynolds and Enright.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Coveney

I have no problem in principle with a national stadium or a national sports campus. There are good examples in other parts of the world where national stadia have worked well and sports campuses have promoted sporting excellence. Sydney is a good example of how sporting excellence can be promoted. The results in the swimming pool during the recent Olympics is a good indication in that regard.

However, my main concern is that the Government's priorities are wrong. I do not accept that enough money is being spent on sporting clubs, community associations and recreational facilities around the country. In my constituency, every second sporting club has obvious problems. The town of Carrigaline has grown very quickly; there are similar towns throughout the country where up to 300 houses are being built each year. However, no sporting facilities are being put in place for these housing developments. Some 400 boys who are members of a soccer club in Carrigaline must practise and train each Saturday afternoon on a lawn that is not much bigger than the centre of the Chamber. Members of a rugby club in Carrigaline must get changed before matches in the golf club. The team plays on ground leased temporarily from the county council and it is currently in danger of being evicted.

A soccer club in the area is desperately attempting to fundraise for a clubhouse that will cost up to £300,000. It received a relatively small donation from the national lottery for the project, but it has no hope of raising the remaining funds in the short to medium term. However, at the same time, the Government wants to spend £700 million on a national stadium in Dublin although Croke Park will seat 80,000 people and Lansdowne Road can seat 50,000. If Eircom Park goes ahead, it will seat another 40,000 people.

I consider Deputy Noel Ahern a reasonable person, but he appeared puzzled by our objection to the proposal. I do not object to a national stadium in principle, but I object to it being a priority when massive funding needs to be put into local sporting clubs and infrastructure. In many cases young people must get changed on the sides of soccer, rugby and GAA pitches. Until proper infrastructure has been provided throughout the country, the spending of a massive amount of money on another stadium in Dublin, which is not needed, cannot be justified.

I am glad the Minister of State with responsibility for the national drugs strategy is present. Sport is most important in terms of ensuring people avoid the temptation of drugs and particularly alcohol. Areas such as Carrigaline – I could mention another 12 places – do not have the recreational and sporting infrastructure to enable people make use of their time outside school and home hours. Unfortunately, they become distracted and bored and they are led astray.

The motion is about priorities. My problem is the Government's priority of building a national stadium before proper sporting infrastructure is put in place throughout the country. One of the speakers on the Government side mentioned preparation for the Olympics and a place in sporting excellence. I agree that a sports campus that promotes sporting excellence should be established. However, it will be a waste of time unless there are facilities throughout the country that can feed into that campus. Any other country that has developed a national campus or stadium has a sporting infrastructure that is significantly better than the infrastructure in Ireland.

I thank Deputy Coveney for sharing his time and giving me an opportunity to contribute to this important debate. I am worried by the Minister's statement that the stadium would be a monument. I always feared the stadium was being developed as a monument to the Taoiseach and that his name would be the most important aspect of it. That is not what this matter should be about.

As the previous speaker said, the main issue is to ensure proper funding is made available to clubs at ground level and that they are not ignored at the expense of a national stadium.

They will not be ignored.

The Minister inferred that there is no scarcity of money. If that is the case, will he deal with the fact that a facility in Monaghan town is closed? This is in addition to the fact that the local hospital is being downgraded, although that is not the Minister's responsibility – it is part of another Minister's portfolio. However, I am sure the Minister is aware through representations from his friend and electoral colleague in Monaghan, Councillor Robert Gallagher, that the swimming pool is closed. It is serious matter. This pool was built 25 years ago. Although £250,000 has been spent on the pool in recent years, a piece of the roof fell into it recently and it has been closed.

The pool is used by the public and two clubs in particular, both of which are involved in competitions. It has serious implications for them. It means that these groups will have to travel long distances, in most cases to Northern Ireland, to carry out their training. What we need is a proper sports complex with a swimming pool. We need proper swimming facilities for both young and old. We need a gym, sauna, coffee shop and sports hall with all the necessary facilities because in this day and age the problem is that many young people have so much time to spare. If they do not have the proper facilities to use up some of their energies in this type of competitive sport, then they can easily get involved in other issues, which the Minister and I, living in the Border area, know too much about. There is a great need to replace this pool as quickly as possible.

The pool is also used for teaching swimming and training people in water safety. Only a few weeks ago two of our brightest young people were lost in a tragedy and this shows the need to train as many people as possible in water safety. The Minister will receive a proposal soon and I hope that he will act on it, regardless of his plans for the stadium, because Monaghan town needs it badly.

I take this opportunity to thank the Minister for recent allocations to two clubs in Aghabog, which is an isolated parish. He gave £20,000 to one and £25,000 to another. That is helpful, but we need a great deal more. In a few months those clubs raised £75,000 and £58,000, respectively. We as a nation should be matching the sums raised locally rather than just giving such allocations. The sums involved were acceptable but we should be able to do better.

I am pleased to contribute to the motion. Like my colleague, Deputy Coveney, I do not have a major problem in principle with building a national stadium. We should do all we can to encourage sport and recreational activities among people of all ages. However, as Deputy Coveney stated, this motion is about prioritising.

I tabled a parliamentary question to the Minister yesterday and he was kind enough to reply to me. I was curious to know how many applications were received last year under the sports capital programme, how many were accepted and how many were not successful. I was told that 1,645 applications were received, 679 of which were successful. Some 966 of the applications were unsuccessful and there are all kinds of reasons for this, but 966 groups or individuals – most would have been groups – went to the trouble to put forward applications to the Department. That is a huge number. I wonder how many of those applications were unsuccessful due to lack of funds. Perhaps the Minister would let us know this at some future date. I might even ask him that by way of another parliamentary question. I know from talking to people in different parts of the country that the reason they were refused in many cases was that the application was not technically correct for one reason or another, for example, the "i" was not dotted or the "t" was not crossed. I ask the Minister to ensure if the money is available for these projects, as he seems to imply, and there is no shortage of money, that he would bend over backwards to facilitate clubs making applications. The information available to me is that spurious reasons, which are often of a technical nature, are given for not making the money available and putting it on the long finger. The Minister is shaking his head but I can provide examples of that.

I also noted from a reply to a parliamentary question that 51 proposals for the construction of swimming pools were received last year and all but three are being processed; I welcome that development. That number was received last year and I do not know how many were received in other years but I am sure that information is available. That involves the expenditure of a colossal amount of money and it shows a huge need in local communities.

We need to start encouraging children to take part in sports such as running and swimming at the earliest possible age. To achieve that, they must take part at a local level. We should put in place an infrastructure at local level first and encourage the great athletes to come from there. Let us put the national stadium and campus together then and not do it the other way round. My concern is that we would build a national campus and stadium and still not have a proper infrastructure at local level. That infrastructure should be put in place first before we do anything else. This is the point of divergence.

My colleague also spoke about the issue of drugs and alcohol. I know the Minister and everybody in the House shares his view. There are few recreational facilities available to young people and there is very little for them to do other than go to pubs. If the Minister were to go into any of the major cities at 2 o'clock or 3 o'clock in the morning, he will see the young people coming out of the night clubs because there are no youth clubs or facilities in many cases. This is another issue. We are debating the Youth Work Bill, 2000, and this is another area into which we must put massive resources. I am worried that Stadium and Campus Ireland will soak up such huge amounts of money that we will not have the money for ordinary young children around the country who need the assistance and help which we should be giving at national level. There is no swimming pool in Youghal, for instance, and the children must be brought by bus to Dungarvan, Fermoy and other places to avail of swimming lessons. That is not good enough in this day and age. There is a fantastic proposal on the Minister's desk. I hope he will look at it, expedite it as quickly as possible and give the UDC the go-ahead.

The Minister knows about the application in Cobh. I ask him to give it the go-ahead and expedite it as quickly as possible. It is almost four years waiting for it—

It is the local authority.

—but it is happening now. The local authority has actually done the work. It has been on the Minister's desk for a long time. I welcome the fact that some movement has occurred recently. I thank the Minister and encourage him to expedite it.

The money is available for all these pools. The money is not the problem. It is just to make sure of the contracts.

The Minister should seriously consider the motion before the House. Why proceed with Campus Ireland at present when in Dublin we have in Croke Park as fine a pitch and stadium as one would see anywhere in the world? Croke Park will hold roughly 80,000 people and I believe that the GAA may be able to expand it.

Lansdowne Road is a particularly fine pitch. The IRFU has spent a good deal of money on it and needs to spend a great deal more.

They say it is not big enough. It is their decision.

They say that but I believe it could be expanded with proper development.

The Taoiseach gave £20 million to the development of Croke Park when he was Minister for Finance and I welcomed that allocation at the time. They are doing a tremendous job. On television the other night I saw Michaél Ó Muircheartaigh in Croke Park and the empty stadium looked magnificent. The GAA really needs more money to develop it because it has had to borrow heavily for it. It is costing a great deal and it would be wonderful if the GAA received further assistance from the Government to help in its development rather than have the GAA enter into heavy debt commitments which will cause problems for the organisation's volunteers throughout the country who assist in the day to day running of Croke Park.

The proposal of the FAI for Eircom Park should be carefully considered. I take great exception to what the Government is doing in relation to Eircom Park. What is happening is not fair. The FAI is to be congratulated on its efforts to date in planning to build a soccer stadium. The Government should have come forward with generous financial assistance to help build Eircom Park.

They did not ask for anything.

Is the Minister prepared to offer them substantial financial assistance?

The Taoiseach said that on the floor of the House in answer to your own leader. They have not asked.

There appears to be a rift at present in the FAI between the chairman and the treasurer. The Government appear to be undermining the efforts of the FAI in building Eircom Park.

On a point of order, I must correct that. The Government is in no way undermining anyone in the FAI. We continue to encourage the FAI and, as I said before, the FAI is welcome to go ahead with its development and is also welcome to come in to Sports Campus Ireland.

Five minutes ago in this House, Deputy O'Shea was here at the time, the Minister for the Marine, Deputy Fahey, was asking the FAI to reconsider the whole position. That appears to be detrimental to the FAI. It has problems trying to develop it. The Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid, may have one brief on it but other members of the Government have a different brief. It is not good enough.

What the FAI is trying to do is of immense importance and it is quite clear that the Government should encourage rather than discourage it. The Government prides itself on private enterprise and initiative and encourages people to build and it has a great interest in the development of the country. The FAI is a group of people, the vast majority of whom work voluntarily, which is building its own stadium for soc cer. It should be further encouraged and the Government should come forward.

I am interested that the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation said he was prepared to fund Eircom Park and give financial assistance to it. I ask him to meet the chairman and treasurers to see if the Government can assist in the development of Eircom Park. It would be a wonderful situation if he did.

I hope I am not making a false accusation in saying the Government is against Eircom Park. I hope I am wrong. However, judging by what is happening in the public press and on television and radio, it appears as if the Government is discouraging such efforts. I would be delighted if the Minister could meet the people in Eircom Park and discuss it with them.

Regarding the IRFU, the Minister mentioned that the £50,000 is not sufficient. There is a great interest and revitalisation in rugby. Again, however, I am not certain what number the IRFU wish to accommodate at matches.Stade de France, a magnificent stadium, is losing quite a substantial amount of money each year. The Minister is in a better position to know but my information is that Stade de France is losing a significant amount of money and is a magnificent stadium in a huge city.

What I encourage, and it is part of the motion, is that the Minister would enter negotiations with the IRFU regarding funding for a stadium development.

Regarding the community games, as the Minister is aware, Mosney has been the venue for the community games finals consistently over the years. I am sure the Minister has been there himself and would join me in congratulating the work and efforts of the people involved. They are doing a splendid job and the community games are proceeding this year. They are being held in Mosney.

The Taoiseach has had discussions with Mr. George O'Toole, the president of the community games, and with Mr. Brian MacManus, the chairman, to offer assistance to them. Is it possible for the Government to enter negotiations with the owners of Mosney to see if it can be developed in the long-term as a headquarters for the community games? It is something that would be of interest to the people attached to the community games.

They want to go to Campus Ireland. That is their desire. They have a full headquarters there.

I accept that but–

It is their decision, their choice.

The facilities around Mosney, where they have been accommodated, are splendid. The accommodation is reasonably priced and the people who attend each year are school-goers and young people, ranging in age from eight to 17 years. They can get reasonable accommodation around the Mosney area and at the complex.

As I had a son and a daughter there at different times I am, therefore, aware of the situation and cost was nil or very little, whereas, if they come to Dublin, to, say, Campus Ireland, it will entail additional financial cost for many of these people.

Those kids want to come to a magnificent stadium. That is what the community games organisation wants, that is where they will be. That is where their headquarters will be.

Would the Minister believe that I have a good rapport with the people in the community games and that all the people who have been there love to go to Mosney?

In regard to the GAA, the Minister's county, Donegal, won the All-Ireland football championship in 1992. I congratulate the Minister on it. However, remember that people playing hurling and football in Offaly, if they get to an All-Ireland series, do not want to play in Campus Ireland. They want to play hurling and football in Croke Park.

They might only get there once in a lifetime, for a quarter-final or a semi-final, but most young children across Offaly would give anything to play hurling or football in Croke Park in an All-Ireland but not in Campus Ireland. The Minister's plan to have part of the All-Ireland hurling and football series played in Campus Ireland is a mistake.

The third part of the motion details the redirection of the money to be spent on a national stadium to the development of a sporting infrastructure at regional, club, schools and community levels. That is very important. Regarding most country towns, there are leisure centres in the larger hotels. Leisure centres are, however, expensive for the ordinary punter to use.

We have two leisure centres in Tullamore and an excellent one in Portlaoise. The rest of the towns around Offaly, however, have no leisure centres. It is important that, whatever moneys are available, the Minister would examine the possibility of leisure centres provided by the State for people of all age groups. There is so little to do in many country towns and it is important that the Minister study how he can assist in their development. I ask him to consider the possibility of a public private partnership in this regard.

The Minister has put substantial effort into the matter of swimming pools. I have been in communication with his office and have received his letters regarding Birr, Clara, Edenderry and Tullamore. Laois is the most inland county in the country, Offaly is next and they are, therefore, a long distance from the sea. I ask the Minister to do everything possible to provide moneys for swimming pools in Birr, Clara and Edenderry.

Again, the people running those pools are volunteers and it is great to see the amount of voluntary work they are putting in. It is wonderful to see their efforts and they need the Minister's support. I ask him to do what he can to expedite funding for the provision of upgrading these pools.

The council has been in touch with the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation and the Minister has queried some of the proposals but I ask him to take a personal interest in the issue with the council to assist in developing these particular pools and to having the refurbishment work carried out. As a substantial amount of funding is now available given that Exchequer returns are excellent, the Minister might consider building new pools. The Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, was a Minister for a period between 1970 and 1971 and I recollect that he opened a good number of swimming pools, as did the late James Tully. There has not been much progress since. We would be interested if it were possible to obtain new swimming pools as distinct from refurbishment.

That is the responsibility of the local authority.

Perhaps the Minister would consider the matter. I would like to talk to him further about it at a future date.

A great deal of money is needed for sports clubs. While the Minister has been quite generous to date through lottery funding and through his Department, nonetheless, rather than spending £1 billion on Sports Campus Ireland, it would be much better if money was allocated to specific areas, such as hurling, football, soccer and athletics clubs and so on. Those areas are of immense importance but the same can be said for many other sporting disciplines, such as tennis, hockey and so on. Many clubs need financial assistance and perhaps the Minister would consider that.

Anyone who read the contributions of Opposition Members during the debate on the motion last night could be forgiven for believing that Ireland is a Third World country when it comes to the provision of sporting facilities. Equally their attitude to the development of Sports Campus Ireland shows they lack a vision for sport.

The commitment of the Government, especially the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid, to providing the best for sport in terms of facility provision for participation and competition at local, regional and national level is there for all to see, not in glossy brochures but in bricks and mortar. Throughout the country community and voluntary organisations have been supported through the sports capital programme and grants have been awarded in more than 1,300 projects towards the provision of facilities. These facilities are provided at local and regional level and it is a logical sequence that we now move to provide a national stadium in which all the people will take pride and which will put Dublin and Ireland on the map as having a facility in which European and world events can be staged.

Did people see what happened in Australia? Had the Australians not had a vision for a major complex, they would not have had the wonderful events they had late last year. No one can argue that it did not put Australia on the map. They did themselves proud and it was a wonderful event not only for Australians but also for the world. Sports Campus Ireland can be put in place without doing any damage to the investment needed to continue with the programmes which provide funding for sports facilities, including swimming pools, at local level.

As Minister with responsibility for the national drugs strategy and for the local development programme I cannot let the accusation that the provision of Sports Campus Ireland necessitates the redirection of resources from disadvantaged communities in need of sporting facilities to go unchallenged. That accusation is completely unfounded.

I am well aware of the benefits which are gained by young people through their involvement in sport and recreation. Involvement in such activities helps to form good sound character and acts as an antidote to anti-social behaviour. Under the young people services and facilities fund £30 million has already been committed to areas of most disadvantage with a further commitment of over £70 million during the lifetime of the national development plan. A substantial proportion of this money is being spent on providing sports facilities to young people at risk.

Reference was made last night to the recent RTE programme which highlighted the St. Teresa's Gardens complex. At this stage everyone who knows the area, especially the residents, realises the picture depicted in that programme is not the full story or anything like it. The Government, through a series of initiatives, has targeted this area for special programmes and facilities which are generously funded. Among these are a grant of £450,000 towards the cost of refurbishing an existing hall in the complex, the complete refurbishment of Donore Avenue Boxing Club and the refurbishing of St. Teresa's Gardens AFC premises to which a grant of £15,000 was allocated. Many of the programmes are aimed at young people. In addition, funding has been provided towards the employment of youth workers to ensure that young people are guided into gain ful use of their leisure time. I outline these initiatives as evidence of the Government's commitment to social disadvantage and for the information of Members who used the recent television programme in support of their opposition to the development of Sports Campus Ireland.

We want to ensure the stadium will be fully accessible in every way and that families will not be priced out. I want the House to know that Sports Campus Ireland can and will be provided and many of the critics of the proposed development will take great pride when the facility becomes a reality.

Mr. Hayes

I support the motion and I commend Deputy Allen on tabling it. I also commend him on being the first spokesperson in his brief in any political party to oppose this proposal. I and my party fundamentally oppose the proposal the Government has submitted for a national stadium. Given the amount of capital required to construct it – in excess of £550 million to put the bricks and mortar together and establish the stadium—

That is not true.

Mr. Hayes

I did not interrupt the Minister.

I want to correct the Deputy when he is wrong.

Mr. Hayes

The Minister is wrong. Not only that, the Taoiseach misled the House before Christmas. I do not respect anything he says in the House because he has completely misled it. The Minister has had his moment.

The Deputy should do his research.

Order, please.

Mr. Hayes

That is priceless coming from the Government side when the Taoiseach deliberately misled the House before the Christmas. It is nonsense for the Minister to claim any credibility on this issue.

Charges of deliberately misleading the House are not in order.

Mr. Hayes

He misled the House—


Mr. Hayes

—and he apologised for it. I accept that he apologised but he was wrong.

The Deputy used the term "deliberately misled". The Deputy must withdraw the remark.

Mr. Hayes

With respect, a Cheann Comhairle, you are being most partial in your rulings. I have five minutes to make a contribution, Sir, and I cannot complete it if you continue to interrupt. You are coming down on their side, Sir.

I am coming down on the side of good order in this House.

Mr. Hayes

It is a fact that the Taoiseach misled the House.

Inadvertently misled, but the Deputy used the term "deliberately misled", which is disorderly.

Mr. Hayes

I said "misled" and no type of smokescreen by his two colleagues will get away from this fact.

The Deputy's party is lacking vision.

Mr. Hayes

I know for a fact that, when the FAI first proposed to establish within my constituency the first ever home for Irish soccer, a deliberate campaign was conducted by certain Departments to scupper those plans. There is not a word from the Ministers now because they know that to be the case.

Fianna Fáil at its best.

Mr. Hayes

That was a situation where, with very small capital expenditure, a home for Irish soccer could have been put in place. I hope the project is passed by An Bord Pleanála.

I also hope the Government does a U-turn, which I suspect it is likely to do because it knows there is no popular approval for its proposal. It will be a white elephant on the outskirts of Dublin city and that is a fundamental point of objection which is clear in policy terms in establishing a sports infrastructure. The Government realises that fact now and it is an embarrassment to it. It should accept the Opposition view that a much more sensible way to approach funding for sports capital within the economy is to assist small groups and organisations throughout the country which want to put basic infrastructure in place.

A measly £36 million was given to projects in 2000. That represents the Government's commitment to the sports capital programme.

Fine Gael spent £4 million.

Order, please.

Mr. Hayes

The public will see through the hypocrisy of the Government, the Minister and Minister of State in particular.

I call Deputy Ring.

They could not even spend £36 million.

Will the Minister and Minister of State please be quiet? They had their opportunity.

Fine Gael spent £4 million.

I am looking for your protection, a Cheann Comhairle.

Deputy Ring to continue without interruption.

They could not even spend £36 million.

We are sick and tired of listening to the Minister. Let us speak and tell the nation what the Government has done.

The Deputy should have told the nation who he was going to vote for tonight.

The Minister of State should sit down and deal with the drugs and drink crisis. I compliment Deputy Allen on tabling this motion. This is political madness. The Taoiseach and the Government are trying to leave a legacy—

Is this the vision which has left Fine Gael at 20% in the opinion polls?

The Minister is at home tonight. This is the first time he has been on the ground in the last six months, during which time he has flown all around the world at the taxpayers' expense. Will he please listen?

I am trying to give the Deputy some advice.

The Minister does not listen.

Fine Gael is at 20% in the opinion polls.

Both he and the Minister of State have lost contact with the people. They spend far too much time out of the country.

The Deputy should tell them who he is going to vote for.

What has the Government got against the FAI?


What has it got against soccer?


What has it got against sport?

It wants to leave a legacy, a place where meetings of Fianna Fáil and ard fheiseanna can be held.

It will not be big enough.

What it has done to the FAI and sport is outrageous. People in rural Ireland complain daily that they cannot obtain grant-aid from the Government. All the Minister will say in response to a parliamentary question or correspondence is that he is looking at the matter. He has been doing this since taking office.

We will continue to listen.

There are people in many parts of rural Ireland who have not received one penny from the Minister's Department despite the fact that they are keeping young people away from drugs and out of pubs, matters about which the Minister is doing nothing. The best the Government can do is provide £600,000 via the Department of Health and Children for snooker at a time when patients have to wait for heart and cataract operations. The Minister's Department should have received this money, not the Department of Health and Children. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Health and Children have lost confidence in the Minister who is unable to deal with his Department. They must take money from a different Department to give it to sport.

The Department of Health and Children asks people to stop smoking.

The Minister is out of the country far too often and has lost contact with the people as a result. They are waiting for the Government, for which they will have a message in the near future.

They were waiting for the Deputy tonight.

What is wrong with the GAA? I support Croke Park. The rugby authorities and the FAI should have their own headquarters. It is wrong that the members of Fianna Fáil who are involved with the FAI are trying to snooker its project. There is a need for a national soccer stadium in the same way that the GAA and the rugby authorities have their own national stadiums. The Government should support the project through the provision of further funds.

They have not asked for any funds.

When the project is up and running we can then look at "Bertie's Bowl". For now, the Government should help, support and fund those in rural areas who are promoting soccer, Gaelic games and rugby in an effort to take young people off the streets, keep them out of the pubs and stop them from using drugs.

It should forget about the daftness of a national stadium in Dublin, where it seems everything must be located. The rest of the country seems to have been forgotten, but the rest of the country will not forget about the Government. It will soon have an opportunity to deal with the matter.

The Minister and Minister of State should stay out of aeroplanes as they are suffering from jetlag. If they come down and try to listen to the people, they will make the right decision. In the last 12 months they have flown more often than a ball has gone over the bar at Croke Park.

It will be difficult to follow that.

It sure will.

Is it any wonder that my colleague polled 22% of the vote in County Mayo? I have always supported the idea of a national stadium but the Government has made a major mistake. Money is being provided for a national stadium which will not be everything it should be. It was the view in the centenary year of the GAA that every club should have a football pitch. This placed a massive strain on club funds. While each club now has its own pitch, in many instances they cannot be used for training during the winter. In Italy, the home of one of the major soccer leagues in the world, stadiums are shared. That was where I was coming from in regard to a national stadium.

What is being proposed is ill-fated and ill-conceived. The development of Croke Park, the FAI project and, probably, Lansdowne Road should be looked at. When this matter was debated at the joint committee the Government was of the opinion that the national stadium would have a retractable roof, an athletics track and cater for all sports, including football, but that is not going to happen. It is, therefore, ill-conceived and ill-timed to spend a horrendous amount of money on a stadium which will not cater for all sectors of the sporting world. The Government should, as a consequence, retract its proposal.

I have just come from a meeting where the atmosphere is much calmer than this one. Last night I raised six major and important questions regarding the cost of the national stadium. Because of the nature of politics, I presume the issues raised did not receive much coverage. Two years ago the Taoiseach mentioned a figure of £280 million, which has since been increased to £550 million. In October he could not make up his mind in the Dáil about whether the figure was £230 million, £280 million or £550 million. The reality is that the national stadium will cost £1 billion and more to build. I assumed the Minister or the Minister of State would give us the answers to these six major and important questions.

The figure is £350 million.

I am puzzled about the obsession with this project at a time when there are 1,600 clubs seeking funds. From the Minister's reply, the estimated cost of the projects submitted is £857 million. The Minister allocated £36 million in the year 2000, leaving the value of the unsuccessful projects at £745 million.

They did not have planning permission or meet all of the other requirements laid down.

I have only three minutes in which to reply.

Will the Minister please allow the Deputy to continue without interruption?

The response last night was all wind, no substance. The same is happening now.

They could not spend all the money we gave them.

I have asked serious questions about this project. I want to know which vested interests are pushing it. Some of those involved in the campus stadium project have a conflict of interest. I want answers to what are serious questions. If we help Croke Park and allow the Eircom Park project to go ahead – it is the Government which is stopping it—

That is not true.

It has submitted an appeal to An Bord Pleanála. That is what is blocking the project.

That is not true.

Because of the delay, costs are escalating. The controversy about Eircom Park in the last two weeks has been about escalating costs. If the Government treats the FAI fairly and in the same manner as the GAA, it would not have a problem. If the Government brings the three organisations together and discusses with them the stadium needs of Dublin and the nation as a whole, it will come out on the right side of £100 million, for which it will have two modern stadiums – Eircom Park and Croke Park, both of which will be completed. The remaining resources could be used to fund—

The stadium is not about three organisations. It is about 70 sports organisations.

The Minister should let me finish.

Will the Minister please allow the Deputy to finish?

There would be sufficient resources available to fund the 1,600 projects to which I have referred which are crying out for funding to provide facilities for young people throughout the country who are dressing and undressing beside ditches and in disused railway wagons. One could build a modern infrastructure that would fit into the 21st century. The conditions in this country would have been appropriate in the 19th century but the Taoiseach, the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation and the Government are pursuing their obsession with professional and spectator sports. The Minister for Health and Children proved as much today with the allocation to professional snooker at a time when people are dying on hospital waiting lists.

Amendment put and declared carried.
Motion, as amended, put and declared carried.