This Adjournment Matter relates to the important area of sport and, in particular, the need to reopen the sports capital programme. In the Sunday Independent last weekend Alan Ruddock stated|: “Whatever the demands in tourism and culture, sport is crying out for direction and policy.” The lack of a sports capital programme in 2009 and to date in 2010 has affected many sports and local community groups and organisations. I am heavily involved with my local club — Bishopstown GAA Club — and other community organisations. I understand, therefore, the importance of sport and community groups to the development of sustainable communities. In that context, the lack of funding and the abolition or suspension of the sports capital programme is having a profound impact.
Let us consider the work done in rural and urban areas, particularly the constituency of Cork South Central in which I live and work, as a result of funding provided under the sports capital programme which makes a difference to clubs and communities across the country. As a result of the RAPID programme, the public realm has been enhanced and the facilities of sports organisations have been improved, which is of benefit to communities. The activities that occur in community halls have been developed and enhanced as a result of improvements made to such halls.
Everyone welcomed the creation of the national lottery in 1986. Everyone also welcomed the establishment of the sports capital programme by Donal Creed who served as Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science in one of the Governments headed by Dr. Garrett FitzGerald. The programme which has proved extremely beneficial was never meant to cease operating. However, it has been discontinued by the Government, of which the Minister of State's party is part. As a result, the development of sports grounds and community facilities has ceased or been suspended. To put it bluntly, the Government which comprises Fianna Fáil and the Green Party is penalising voluntary sports and community groups which rely on the funding provided under the sports capital programme.
If the new Minister, Deputy Hanafin, and the Government are to be taken seriously, they must place sport and the provision of sports facilities at the top of the political agenda. Will the Minister of State outline what happens to the money people spend on tickets for the national lottery draws held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays? Will she also indicate to where the money spent on national lottery scratch cards goes? Will she further state where the money allocated to the sports capital programme has gone? This matter has never been addressed.
In 2006 the Irish Sports Council published a report entitled, Ballpark Figures, which states: "At present, sport punches below its weight as a policy issue". In conjunction with several colleagues, I took part in the television programme "Operation Transformation" in an attempt to raise awareness of issues such as obesity and well-being and show that a small change in lifestyle could make a major difference. Such changes in lifestyle can be achieved by everyone. A change in eating habits is only one part of the programme espoused on "Operation Transformation". Taking part in sports and engaging in physical activity are also paramount, particularly as they create a new awareness of the benefits of participation.
The provision of funding for sports clubs could help to move Ireland forward in alleviating problems relating to obesity and social disadvantage. It could also be of assistance in creating sustainable communities. Sport is an integral part of such communities. If young people are encouraged to become involved in sport from an early age, it improves their health and welfare and has other knock-on effects.
The decision to eliminate, freeze or suspend the sports capital programme is wrong. The money allocated could act as a stimulus for the construction industry and assist in building communities and providing employment opportunities. In the reply to a parliamentary question he tabled on 23 March Deputy Creed was informed that no decision had been made on the programme for this year and that €48 million had been provided in the Department's Vote in the 2010 Estimates to cover payments previously awarded to be made from the C1 subhead, out of which grants were paid for the provision of sports and recreational facilities. Therefore, funding is available. In such circumstances, I ask the new Minister to reopen the programme and allow sports clubs and community groups to get back to providing services. Yesterday I attended a meeting at Ballyphehane GAA Club in Cork, at which the RAPID programme co-ordinator stated money had not been allocated. In such circumstances, I must ask whether we really are serious about encouraging participation in sport and tackling social disadvantage.
I hope sports organisations and community groups will not be punished further by the Government. This Administration has already assisted in eroding rural communities and placed sport on the back burner. The former Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Mr. Martin Cullen, indicated with much fanfare — the Minister of State will be aware of this because she was present at the meeting of the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport and Tourism at which it was said — that the programme was under review. On how many more occasions are Ministers going to state matters are under review? The Government is great at carrying out reviews and issuing reports. However, it does not take action.
The national lottery was created to assist in the provision of funding for sport and other activities. To where does the money collected by the national lottery go? What happens to the money people spend each week on lottery tickets and scratch cards?