Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 19 Feb 2013

Vol. 793 No. 1

Priority Questions

Sale of State Assets

Timmy Dooley


101. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his assessment of the strategic value of the State's holding in Aer Lingus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8967/13]

This question relates to the Government's shareholding in Aer Lingus and its strategic value. The Government retained a minority stake of 25.1% in Aer Lingus in the initial public offering of shares in the group in 2006 primarily to protect what were perceived to be the State's strategic aviation interests at that time. However, the importance of the Government's minority stake, particularly in the context of the Heathrow slots, has changed over time. Developments such as the dissolution of the employee share ownership trust, ESOT, have had an impact. Also, the Government shareholding is not sufficient on its own to block the sale or lease of Heathrow slots by Aer Lingus. In terms of connectivity, while Heathrow remains very important for Ireland, there are now a wider range of connectivity options available through other hubs, including Schiphol, Frankfurt, Paris, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

However, there are still strategic issues to be considered in the context of Aer Lingus and the services it provides. For example, following detailed consideration, the Government decided that it would not be prepared to support the most recent Ryanair offer for Aer Lingus on the basis that it would have a significant negative impact on competition, connectivity and employment in the Irish market. The offer is currently being examined by the European Commissioner under the EU merger control rules and, notwithstanding recent media reports, the Government awaits the Commission's formal decision which we expect in the coming weeks.

The Government has made it clear that it plans to sell its shareholding in Aer Lingus at the right time, for the right price and under the right conditions. This position remains with respect to the above matter and is unchanged, and it is subject to ongoing consideration within Government.

I thank the Minister for his reply. It is the first time I have heard a representative of this Government accept that there are strategic issues in regard to the ownership of Aer Lingus and, in particular, the Minister has identified competition connectivity and employment in the State. He seems to have cast aside, to some extent, the issue of the Heathrow slots and he believes that the Government is not in a position to prevent a sale or lease, and perhaps that is right, although I would argue that by retaining Aer Lingus in its current format the chances are much better that the slots will be deployed for the use of the Irish people, will provide access and the appropriate level of connectivity following from that.

I ask the Minister to reflect to some extent on what the Irish Exporters Association said last year. It said, "The strategic importance of the Aer Lingus cargo facility for high-tech and life science exporters has not been given enough consideration by the Government". The Minister will be aware that Aer Lingus flights carry about 52% of the value of our exports and about 43% of all imports from the United States. Any changed ownership that might see a level of diminution of the current connectivity that Aer Lingus provides to the United States-----

A question please, Deputy.

could put at risk the €18 billion of pharmaceutical and medical technology that are exported by air freight to the US and around €4.5 billion of high tech imports required for a wide range of manufacturing companies in this country. Taking that into account and the fact that so much of our future potential growth is based around our exports sector and around direct access to key markets from a tourism development point of view, would the Minister not consider that the Government should review the entire strategic importance of Aer Lingus as the enabler for both of those sectors?

He should be in a position to change his policy so that he sends a very clear message to the market that he wishes Aer Lingus to exist as it currently is, as an independent operator. It is very clear from the airline consolidation that is taking place in Europe and the United States that we cannot guarantee what the future ownership will be if we divest the current level of shareholding. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Ryanair, though some other guise, could find a way to take the assets of Aer Lingus in some secondary deal. Does the Minister agree that now is the time to have a fundamental review that gives some standing and future prospect to the retention of Aer Lingus as an independent operator?

There are strategic issues involved and cargo is certainly one of them. I met the Irish Exporters Association on a number of occasions and discussed that very point. The association is also represented on the Tánaiste's export trade council, so I meet its members from time to time in that forum. Almost all airlines, other than Ryanair, provide cargo services and it was its intention and remains its intention, if it gains control of Aer Lingus, to continue to carry cargo because it is profitable.

On the issue of the Heathrow slots we cannot, on our own, block the sale or lease of those. There is nothing stopping Aer Lingus from turning around the slots itself and using them to fly London transatlantic. It could do that if it so wished. The other point to remember is that the slots can be forfeited. If Aer Lingus does not use them, it loses them. The airline does not own them as some may think; it just has rights over them. It is also worth pointing out that even if the Government stake is disposed of, the Government remains an interested party when it comes to any takeover attempt and can still be in a position to make its views known to the European Commission. Any merger or acquisition which has a European dimension remains notifiable to the European Commission under the 2004 mergers regulations. Therefore, even if the State was not a shareholder, the Commission would still examine any competition issues if a merger was proposed. In addition, we would be able to make our views known.

I take at face value what the Minister has said but the Government must carry out a detailed analysis of the marketplace and examine the potential pitfalls of Aer Lingus being bought by some other suitor and ultimately ending up in the hands of Ryanair through some secondary or future deal, which is not beyond the bounds of possibility. A critical analysis of the marketplace must be conducted to determine the potential risks of Aer Lingus falling into the wrong hands and the very considerable impact that would have on this country. The Minister must determine how best he can use his current shareholding to continue to provide the benefits on which our tourism and export sectors are so dependent.

That analysis is under way and is being done by the NewERA unit on behalf of the Department and the Government. Aer Lingus is a very good company and is very profitable. In fairness to the management and staff, they have made a huge contribution in recent years to turning the company around. It is a company I want to see continue to grow and be successful. To date, the Government's shareholding has largely been passive and Aer Lingus has shrunk its business to become more profitable. A lot of the expansion in which the company is currently engaged is actually outside of Ireland. It is expanding within the United Kingdom and, more recently, between Spain and the United States. If the Government was to take a more active shareholding role, it would want to know what Aer Lingus would do in return for that, in terms of developing its business and reopening connections that existed in the past.

Taxi Regulations

Dessie Ellis


102. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the discussions he has had with the Department of Justice and Equality and experts on the Good Friday Agreement over the course of the drafting of the Taxi Regulation Bill in view of the devastating effect its measures may have on former political prisoners related to the conflict on this island; the reason for not including any recognition of the terms of the agreement on relation to reintegration of former prisoners into the jobs market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8964/13]

The Taxi Regulation Bill 2012, published last December, is a major step in the process of implementing the recommendations of the taxi regulation review report published earlier last year.  In line with the recommendations of the review report, the Bill restates and strengthens the proportionality of the existing legislative provision for mandatory disqualification of persons convicted of serious criminal offences from operating in the industry. The provisions of the Bill will ensure those with convictions on indictment for the most serious of violent crimes will be excluded from the industry. The specification of offences to which mandatory disqualification applies is based on the principle of ensuring the welfare and the safety of passengers, particularly in situations where a passenger is travelling alone in a taxi.  Because of the serious consequences of mandatory disqualification it can only be applied in narrowly defined circumstances relating to very serious crimes.

Furthermore there are inbuilt safeguards in the Bill to ensure that the effect is not disproportionate. Specifically, there is a right of appeal under which the appropriate court can review a range of matters pertinent to the suitability of the appellant to be a taxi driver. 

The Bill was the subject of consultation with Government Departments including the Department of Justice and Equality prior to its publication in December of last year. In addition, there was a representative of that Department on the taxi regulation review group. During the course of preparation of the review group report on the Bill the issue of the Good Friday Agreement did not receive any special attention.

I do not consider that it would be appropriate to include any particular reference to that agreement in the Bill.  The question of whether any measures relating to former prisoners should be provided for in law in arising from the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement is one that extends beyond the specific issue of taxi licences. The Minister for Justice and Equality recently introduced the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 which has been passed by the Seanad and is now to come before this House. That Bill provides a more appropriate context for consideration of issues arising from the Good Friday Agreement. To my knowledge, however, no amendments relating to the Good Friday Agreement were proposed in the Seanad. 

In any event, I am satisfied that the provisions of the Taxi Regulation Bill are fair and balanced.  Under the appeal procedure provided for in the Bill,  the courts can determine if there are mitigating circumstances such that mandatory disqualification should not apply in a particular case.  

The courts are the best placed to make the kinds of judgments required which would have to be assessed on a case by case individual basis.

I thank the Minister of State. New taxi regulations could result in the disqualification or suspension of drivers who have convictions relating to the conflict between republicans and the British State on this island. It is recognised that this conflict was a special circumstance and that those who received convictions in the course of the conflict should not be treated as common criminals. There are, currently, drivers who were convicted of offences covered by Schedules 1 and 2 of the Bill who have been operating licences without any issue for years. These convictions were directly related to their involvement in the conflict and this is recognised in a number of international agreements signed by the State, including the Good Friday Agreement.

Legislation retrospectively affecting an individual's rights, which in this case would be to disqualify a licensed taxi driver who may have relied on these rights by investing in his taxi or leaving another job to become a taxi driver, would be disproportionate and repugnant to the Constitution.

Deputy, please ask a question.

In any consideration of an individual's constitutional rights, such as the right to a livelihood or ownership of property, the doctrine of proportionality would apply. In the case of Cox v. Ireland, the Supreme Court considered section 34 of the Offences Against the State Act 1939 which provides that a State employee who is convicted of a scheduled offence in the Special Criminal Court shall forfeit pension, superannuation allowance and gratuity earned for service done before the conviction. The Supreme Court determined that while the State was entitled to take into consideration the public interest of peace and order, section 34 was disproportionate as it bore no relation to any question of public peace.

Deputy, I would like to call you again for a second question, but you are using your time. This is Question Time.

I will come back and ask a number of questions.

Has the Minister of State looked at the Bill properly? Sinn Féin have sought legal advice and we believe it is unconstitutional. What legal proofing did the Minister do of the Bill? The Minister of State mentioned the Department of Justice and Equality. The Government signed the Good Friday Agreement but the Bill puts disproportionate pressure on families who are affected by the agreement. This should be taken into account in any consideration of offences.

I thank Deputy Ellis, who has raised this issue on previous occasions. The Bill is proportionate. I have suggested to the Deputy previously that he raise the issue in the context of other legislation. He asks if we have rigorously checked the legality of the Bill. Of course we have. The Attorney General went through the legislation and is satisfied with its drafting, the manner in which it has been presented and, in particular, its proportionality.

I also point out that the Department of Justice and Equality was represented on the taxi review committee that made the provisions that are now being enacted.

Simply put, we must get to the stage where we are confident that anyone driving a taxi should be allowed to be behind the wheel of a taxi. Everyone would agree with that and I certainly believe it. We acknowledge the majority of taxi drivers are hardworking, decent, honourable people but it is amazing the number of people who have come to me to say they cannot understand how someone with a serious conviction could be allowed to get a licence. That is not acceptable. They should not be allowed to get a licence. I do not care if they claim to be reformed after any serious conviction, a person cannot and should not have a licence to drive a taxi if he has a conviction for murder, terrorism or serious sexual crime. It is as simple as that and the House should support that fully.

The Government signed up to the Good Friday Agreement, an internationally recognised agreement, where people who took part in the conflict would be treated in a certain way. That should be binding. This is putting serious pressure on people who have been in the taxi industry for many years.

The fact the Minister of State is looking at this retrospectively is the problem. I understand the point about serious convictions but we are talking about a certain section of people and we have moved forward. What is the Minister of State trying to do? Does he want to turn the clock back and throw people out on the streets after they have signed up to an agreement, many of them doing so at great personal risk? On the basis of the Minister of State's remarks, I would not be in this House because I was involved in the conflict. There have been others, including in the Labour Party, in the same boat. It is unfair and I will give the Minister of State the legal advice I received on this.

I have plenty of correspondence on this issue and will take any more the Deputy wants to send me. I stand over the reason for the retrospective nature of these provisions. There are people driving taxis in this country who should not be behind the wheel of a taxi. It is simple as that and needs no further explanation. That is why the legislation must be retrospective. No one in this House with a loved one would be happy for him or her to get into a taxi driven by someone with a serious conviction, be it for murder, terrorism or sexual assault. I want to put an end to that and I want the support of the House while doing so. This cannot continue.

Swimming Pool Projects

Catherine Murphy


103. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will confirm when funding for a new round of applications under the local authority swimming pool programme will be put in place; if he will provide a list of successful applications under the programme broken down by local authority from 2005 until the suspension of the grant assistance; if he will confirm if the use it or lose it element of the grant aid remains in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8732/13]

Under the current round of the local authority swimming pool programme, grant aid to a maximum of €3.8 million is provided to local authorities towards the capital cost of new swimming pools or the refurbishment of existing pools. So far, 47 projects have been completed and 11 other projects are at various stages of development.

The current round of the programme was closed to new applicants on 31 July 2000. No decision has been taken on the timing of a new round of the programme. It is incorrect to say that funding for swimming pools has been suspended. Last year, €7.7 million was paid out in respect of swimming pools and €5.6 million is available this year, all of which is expected to be paid out to grantees.

Since 2005, three projects have been added to the list of pools under the programme. In 2005 €3.8 million was allocated where a local authority swimming pool in Monaghan had to close for safety reasons, and Monaghan was the only county in the country without a local authority pool. In 2006, a special Estimates allocation of €300,000 was made by the Minister for Finance towards the refurbishment of the swimming pool at St Joseph's School for Deaf Boys in Dublin, and in 2010 the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport approved a grant of €648,000 towards the refurbishment of the de Paul Swimming Pool, operated by the Daughters of Charity, in Dublin. This grant was subsequently increased to €948,000.  The latter two pools are in the Dublin City Council area. 

On the possible withdrawal of grants, I am conscious that local authorities, like all other organisations, have been facing financial difficulties in recent years and my Department is trying to afford them every opportunity to draw down this funding, within the terms and conditions of the programme.  Of course these grants cannot remain open indefinitely and I would urge the relevant local authorities to progress their projects as quickly as possible.

The last time I asked a similar question I got a very different answer, that the Department was conducting a review, some local authorities would not be able to come up with matching funding and the Department was to talk to those local authorities with a view to closing it off so that the Department could open up the programme to local authorities which might be able to come up with the matching funding.

In 2000, when the scheme was opened up, each local authority was told that it could nominate no more than two locations. There were at least four locations - south Dublin, Wexford, Wicklow and Kerry - which put in for four. To the best of my knowledge, four have been built in three of those four locations. Five or six locations got three pools. Kildare, foolishly, put in for two.

When the review was done in 2007, there was a comparison made with Northern Ireland and Scotland. Northern Ireland has one pool for every 32,000 of population, Scotland has one for every 15,000 of population and the aim in Ireland was to get one for every 58,000 of population.

Is that still a commitment? Is that still an aim? I am being parochial about this. Kildare has one pool for every 105,000 of population, which is more than double the target. Is there any prospect of funding becoming available for such a location, where there is a population that is large enough to support a pool and where it would be financially viable? Will the Minister of State insist on a use-or-lose-it clause at any point in the case of local authorities that cannot come up with the matching funding?

I accept Deputy Catherine Murphy's frustration in the question she asked. It is a long time since these grants were allocated in 2000. Some of the local authorities have approached us because it is taking a long time. Matching funding is difficult to get at present. There are also technical difficulties. At the same time, I have written to the local authorities. It is something I must look at because we cannot continue where there are places, such the Deputy's area, that are looking for a pool.

As I stated in my reply, we had 58 projects, 47 are completed and 11 are still outstanding. At some stage I must make a decision and state that they will get a short time period to draw down the funds or we must close them down. Then I will have to see what I can do to allow others make applications for a new scheme.

There is not a great rush. The only local authority looking for funding for a swimming pool is the Deputy's local authority in the case of her area. There are some local authorities that even tell me they do not want to go ahead with the project and some of them have withdrawn on the basis that they cannot come up with the matching funding.

If applications are being withdrawn and there is not a rush, why is the Minister of State not providing for a location where there is a site, where there is a demand and where the running of a pool would be viable? The people in my area ask me where is their swimming pool and I tend to tell them it is in south Dublin, Wicklow or Kerry. Certainly, it is not where they want it to be.

The local authorities' big problem, the complaint with which they came to me and with which I dealt for some of them last year related to heating pools and making them wheelchair accessible. In that regard, I introduced a scheme last year and we allocated funding to 56 pools. It was for a number of pools throughout the country in financial difficulty because the local authority could not heat them and because of the energy wastage involved. In my opinion, it was the best scheme I introduced in the Department since I came into office. I visited Sligo, Ballina, Donegal and Galway.

Every one of them tells me that but for the grant aid that we provided to upgrade their energy efficiency and make them wheelchair accessible many of these pools would have closed. The big problem we have is with the existing pools - they are not able to run them or fund them. The fuel prices are creating great difficulty in heating them. Regarding the scheme, I will need to put pressure on the remaining local authorities to either get in or get out. I will then have to see if I can find some funding to allow in some other counties with a need for swimming pools.

Rail Services

Timmy Dooley


104. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his assessment of Iarnród Éireann's prospects; his strategy to ensure a viable rail network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8968/13]

My Department and the National Transport Authority are working with Iarnród Éireann to increase the efficiency and attractiveness of existing rail services.

The Government continues to provide substantial Exchequer investment in the rail network despite the significant financial challenges. In the past two years almost €385 million has been invested in Iarnród Éireann and further investment of over €130 million will take place this year. The overall investment in railway safety is in excess of €1.5 billion since 1999 when the railway safety programme commenced. There has also been significant investment in rolling stock, on upgrading the Kildare route and opening new routes such as Cork commuter route, Navan phase 1 and phase 1 of the western rail corridor.

The investment regime for Iarnród Éireann for 2014 is being reviewed having regard to the anticipated completion of the railway safety programme by the end of 2013 and new EU-mandated infrastructure management contract requirements, allied to the need to ensure value for money in the spending of constrained Exchequer funding. It is envisaged that from 2014 onwards investment in Iarnród Éireann will concentrate on maintaining and renewing a fit-for-purpose rail network, augmented by some targeted investment enhancements which will be limited due to the overall level of resources available for transport investment up to 2016.

On 24 July 2012 the Government decided to provide additional PSO funding of €36 million to CIE companies. This brought the total subvention paid to CIE in 2012 to €278 million, of which €166.4 million was paid to Iarnród Éireann. CIE is progressing a five-year business plan to address the underlying financial challenges facing CIE so that the CIE's rail and bus services can be provided efficiently and cost effectively over the plan period.

The Minister of State has knowledge of the accounts of the company and in particular the accounts of Iarnród Éireann. From various media reports at the end of last year and early this year he will be aware of the very serious funding crisis in Iarnród Éireann. How does he expect Iarnród Éireann to come through that particular difficulty? He identified the need for and the House supported the provision of in excess of €35 million last year, much of which was required to resolve Iarnród Éireann's day-to-day funding issues. A voluntary severance programme was intended to reduce costs. However, part of that had to be delayed because the company was not in a cash position to meet the demands entailed. The firm required an extra €16 million just to pay the day-to-day expenses. Iarnród Éireann had a very serious cash crisis last year. We gave the Minister of State a period of time to resolve it. What progress has been made on that? Is Iarnród Éireann now on a viable financial footing as we head into another difficult year?

As the Deputy is aware, last year we put an extra €36 million into CIE, which will mean that in 2012, some €166 million went to Irish Rail and €126 million is budgeted for in 2013. Further financing was required in 2012 to fund the voluntary severance scheme and the sale of non-core assets such as a Spencer Dock property, which was central to that. The issue of voluntary severance is serious because as that is rolled out we will gain continued savings through the years. CIE has put in place a five-year business plan, a large proportion of which relates to Irish Rail. It has sought to secure additional banking facilities in 2013, through an NPRF loan.

They are looking at various other ways of executing the business plan to ensure the efficiencies necessary in Irish Rail over the next five years can be achieved. Following successful negotiations with Irish Rail €11 million per annum has been saved and a great deal of progress in terms of services for passengers has been made. It is hoped this, in tandem with the business plan, will result in an increase in passenger numbers and an improvement in the company's balance sheet.

Has the Minister of State seen the five-year business plan, sought external advice on it, passed it to the Department of Finance for comment and signed off on it?

NewERA has considered the business plan in great detail, the Department has considered the various components of it in great detail and the Government has signed off on it. Access to banking facilities in 2013 is important. The Deputy will be aware that the legislation dealing with borrowings by CIE was recently passed by this House, which legislation provided additional elasticity in this regard. A plan is being executed to ensure that service provision is improved, leading to an increase in passenger numbers and reducing the need for finance into the future. An increase in passenger numbers over the five years of the business plan will help to improve the company's balance sheet.

Sports Capital Programme Applications

Sandra McLellan


105. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will explain the reason he rejected funding applications under the sports capital programme for public sports facilities in disadvantaged RAPID areas in the south inner city (details supplied); if he will meet with a delegation from the local community to discuss this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8966/13]

This question relates to applications under the sports capital programme 2012. The programme prioritises the needs of disadvantaged areas. Of the €31 million allocated under the 2012 programme, 41%, or €12.6 million, was allocated to projects in designated disadvantaged areas.

When the 2012 programme was advertised my Department issued a detailed guide to filling out the application form which set out the Department's minimum requirements. Regrettably, the applications referred to by the Deputy did not meet these requirements and hence were deemed invalid and could not be considered for funding.

The first application referred to was in respect of a project costing €1.05 million and did not include a feasibility study, which is a requirement under the programme for projects costing more than €700,000. In addition, the estimate provided by the quantity surveyor did not provide details of the works to be carried out. The other two applications were invalid for the following three reasons: the applicants did not provide the Department with evidence of title to the property to be used for the project; an acceptable quotation was not provided; and the application form did not include an original signature as required.

A letter setting out the reason the applications were deemed invalid has been sent to the applicants. Owing to the number of applications received, it is not possible for me to meet individual delegations. If the applicants require further information or clarification they should contact the sports capital programmes unit of my Department in Killarney.

The sports capital programme 2012 is now closed and all moneys under this round have been allocated.

The Minister of State will be aware that Willie Pearse Park, Crumlin, St. John Bosco Football Club, Brickfield Park, Drimnagh and Bushy Park in Terenure belong to Dublin City Council. The fact that these are public facilities makes them of high value to the local community. A variety of clubs and sporting organisations in the area use the facilities on a weekly basis for boxing, soccer and Gaelic games. The local community works tirelessly with Dublin City Council and sporting clubs in the area in an effort to secure funding for the various projects. Furthermore, despite that this area of Dublin is one of low socioeconomic status and is densely populated it has only one youth centre and three community centres. Sporting organisations, clubs and young people in the area are highly dependent on over-used and badly in need of repair sporting facilities.

Is the Minister of State aware that Brickfield Park is the only public park of its size in the entire Inchicore-Drimnagh area?

Is the Minister of State aware the local community groups and sporting clubs wanted to submit two separate funding applications under the sports capital programme, one for an all-weather pitch and another for draining at Brickfield Park, but in an attempt to maximise success Dublin City Council decided to submit the drainage application only? As this was refused, it meant the local community ended up with nothing. It is disappointing the Minister of State will not meet a delegation from the local community group. Is he prepared to commit to meeting me in the near future to further discuss the matter?

In the ten years this country has had funding for sports, this year was the first that more than 40% of the money was allocated to disadvantaged areas. The invalid applications submitted meant we could not allocate more funding to disadvantaged areas or to Dublin. I would not and did not accept invalid applications. The officials in the Department went through and adjudicated the applications and no invalid application came before me. We allocated funding in Dublin and anywhere we had an opportunity to do so, particularly in disadvantaged areas. More than 50% of the 2,137 applications were invalid. I have received requests from throughout the country to meet groups and I would need a bus to bring them back and forth every day. I will never have a problem meeting the Deputy.

The Minister of State has met a fair scatter of them.

I acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of the local community groups and sporting clubs in the area. I am delighted the Minister of State is prepared to meet me. Will he give an undertaking to embark on an information campaign regarding specifically targeting the sports capital programme at clubs and organisations working with disadvantaged people in disadvantaged areas?

The new forms will make it easier for organisations to submit applications. I reduced the local contribution which must be made in disadvantaged and CLÁR areas. I did everything in my power to target funding to disadvantaged areas, but the criteria had to be met. To be fair to the officials, when they sent out the criteria for the programme they also offered clubs and organisations a service whereby they could telephone the office in Killarney to speak to officials and go through the applications prior to their submission. The officials were prepared to do this. Every effort was made to make it easy for organisations because most of them work in a voluntary capacity. I respect this which is why I reduced the contribution required from disadvantaged and CLÁR areas and tried to make it easier. I was delighted that for the first time in ten years more than 40% of the allocation went to disadvantaged areas. I stated before the allocations were made that I wanted to target disadvantaged areas and I did so. Every valid application submitted from Dublin received funding, but a number of organisations in disadvantaged areas submitted invalid applications. If those applications had been valid they would have been considered for funding.

Does the Minister of State accept that many clubs got it wrong?