Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Wednesday, 27 May 1998

Vol. 1 No. 2

Vote 35: Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Revised).

There is a quorum and I suggest the committee proceeds with the Estimates. I welcome the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid, on his second appearance before the committee. I also welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Flood, and the officials who have worked diligently on the preparation of the Estimates. The only item on the agenda is consideration of the Revised Estimates for the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation. The timetable has been circulated to Members. Is it agreed to adhere to that formula? Agreed.

I wish to bring to the Minister's attention a representation that has been made continually to me and other Members of the committee by the Irish Amateur Swimming Association regarding funding. I am aware the Minister took the opportunity recently during Question Time to address this ongoing problem. I understand and respect the Minister's position but I am concerned about swimmers who are in the middle of intensive training programmes. Due to lack of funding, they may have difficulty continuing their training. Perhaps the Minister could refer to this matter in his opening remarks in terms of how it could be addressed. I invite the Minister to introduce the 1998 Revised Estimates for the Department under Vote 35.

I am delighted to introduce the Estimate. Much work has been put into their preparation and I ask the committee to accept a certain amount of them to expedite matters. However, so much work has been done that the Estimates also require detailed consideration and I am prepared to deal with questions on all aspects of them. The Chairman mentioned the swimming association. I will deal with that matter when we reach the section relating to sport.

I am delighted to appear before the Select Committee to discuss the 1998 Estimates for my Department. It is a new Department, not yet one year in existence, but it is already proving to be a key Ministry in that it integrates a range of functions and services which have a direct impact and influence on the economic and social progress of society. The Government, in placing under the control of one Minister the hugely important areas of tourism, sport, recreation, local development, the drugs initiative and aspects of the Programme for Peace and Reconciliation, has recognised that all these are interrelated and through the focused approach to all of them by my Department, the Minister of State, Deputy Flood and myself, real progress can and is being made and I hope the Department can continue in this vein in the future.

In the aftermath of the welcome and sound endorsement by the electorate North and South of the Border of the Good Friday Agreement, this is a time for optimism and I am particularly delighted by the opportunities it presents to all the people of the island of Ireland for greater co-operation. I can assure Members I will not be found wanting in my efforts further to enhance the co-operation which already exists in the areas of tourism, sport and recreation. As I have said on numerous occasions, we are only working at a percentage of our potential. If we can get the political problems corrected, the whole country, not least the area I represent, will have an even greater economic boom than we are already enjoying.

I propose to go through the key areas of my Department's Estimate in the order in which the subheads appear on the briefing material provided to Members. The administrative budget is contained in subheads A1 to A9 and totals £4.216 million. While this is relatively small in the context of the overall size of my Department's Estimate, it funds the running costs of my Department. The 1998 Estimate of £4,216,000 shows an increase of £243,000 on the 1997 outturn, but included in this year's figure is a carrying forward of savings of £200,000 in 1997. The marginal increase of £43,000 in the administrative budget is mainly due to additional staffing costs and general pay increases in accordance with Partnership 2000.

The tourism sector is covered by subheads B1 and B2. One of the most striking features of Irish tourism in recent times has been the high growth rates achieved by the sector. Over the past ten years, Irish tourism has enjoyed astonishing success with visitor numbers and revenue increasing annually. The recorded statistics for the sector show that the number of overseas visitors has increased from 2.4 million in 1988 to over 5 million in 1997. Over the same period, total foreign exchange earnings have more than doubled from £841 million to a staggering figure of over £2 billion. In employment terms, tourism now supports an estimated 115,000 jobs, an increase of 53,700 since 1987.

The upward trend in visitor numbers, foreign revenue and employment vividly confirms that Irish tourism has been an outstanding success, one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy and, more importantly, a major contributor to Ireland's economic success. We must, however, avoid becoming complacent about the long track record of success and the excellent results achieved to date. As we face the remainder of the decade, the challenge to create further economic growth and employment remains crucial. There is an overwhelming need, therefore, to enhance our competitive position with rival destinations and, in so doing, ensure that we sustain the existing growth levels in performance and expand market share worldwide in the future.

The indications are that this will be yet another record year for overseas visitor numbers and revenue. The allocations for tourism marketing and promotion in this Estimate will allow Bord Fáilte to undertake an enhanced overseas and regional tourism marketing campaign designed to deliver an increase of 9 per cent in tourism foreign earnings.

Subhead B3, the overseas tourism marketing initiative, almost speaks for itself. If and when we have market Ireland as a whole I would like to base that on the OTMI model which brings together the tourism industry and the private sector. In 1998 it will receive Exchequer support amounting to £4.237 million and continues to be a singularly unique success. It has brought together the public sector tourism bodies and more than 50 commercial investors from the industry in a fruitful partnership and its carefully orchestrated advertising media campaigns in the British, USA, German and French markets have resulted in significant increases in tourism benefits. Furthermore, the industry's hands-on involvement, through its participation on the board and subcommittees of OTMI, has provided valuable assistance and input and has fostered a spirit of co-operation. This type of co-operative marketing effort is to be encouraged at all levels. When I met the committee recently I told them I was doing my best to ensure the A. D. Little report was implemented as much as possible; I am sure my predecessor did the same. In an industry such as this, the Government should give power to those within the industry because they know best how to run it. The Government will always be there to lend a hand but a gradual transfer must be the way for the future.

The special tourism marketing initiative is dealt with under subhead B4, a subhead to fund new initiatives. I propose that part of the £3.5 million allocated in the budget for tourism marketing initiatives under this subhead will be used by Bord Fáilte to fund a series of specific initiatives, directed at overseas marketing and regional campaigns. When I came into office I was concerned about spreading tourism among all the regions because there is inequality as between the east and west coasts, for example. This initiative was designed to do something about that. Bord Fáilte's proposals in this regard are currently being examined in my Department and while the final details have yet to be concluded I can say at this stage, that they will help to copperfasten the achievement of national growth targets. Bord Fáilte will also continue the programme of regional marketing which I began last year out of my concern that the benefits of tourism be equitably distributed throughout all regions. Also benefiting under the £3.5 million allocation are my millennium plan, called "The Party Starts Here" which I launched some months ago, and tourism marketing initiatives on special events, such as bringing the Ryder Cup to Ireland in 2005.

Subhead B5 is also self-explanatory. It includes a provision of £97,000 to cover currency exchange loss on certain ICC Bank foreign borrowing for capital investment in tourism facilities, beginning in 1981. The final payment of that figure is due this year. It was introduced to cope with the high exchange rates at that time. This is a concessionary loan scheme introduced in 1981 for tourism funds which were borrowed in a variety of foreign currencies and loans at fixed rates of interest. At end of April 1998, loans outstanding amounted to £275,000 which will be repaid in full by next month.

Subhead B6 relates to the Shannon Free Airport Development Company Limited. Shannon Development will continue to initiate and support tourism development as a key element of the achievement of overall economic growth throughout the mid-west region. In 1998 Shannon Development will get £1.054 million in grant aid to carry out this activity and will also receive capital from the Exchequer to complement the European Regional Development Fund funds to develop the tourism facilities within the region.

Subhead B7 deals with CERT. The total estimated Exchequer allocation to CERT for 1998 is £3.428 million and this is augmented by European Social Funds of £11.052 million, bringing the total allocation to £14.48 million. The company continues to play a vital role in the growth and development of the booming Irish tourism industry. We are looking forward to continuing to work with CERT. On a related subject which will probably be raised later in the meeting, we will have to look more seriously at training.

CERT expects to train more than 11,000 people for the industry in 1998. Under its three main measures it organises courses for the unemployed, young first time job seekers and those already working in the industry. While there is still evidence of staff and skills shortages in certain areas of the industry, these are in direct response to the levels of growth experienced - the industry is expanding at such a rapid rate that we are not able to keep up. While I do not want to be seen as discriminatory, tourists interacting with such people has been of huge benefit because they like to be served by Irish people. However, this is not always the case and we must look at that.

Last year I appointed a new CERT council which includes members who have a vast amount of knowledge and experience in all sectors of the industry. Under its new chairman, Mr. Eamon McKeon, who has many years experience in the hotel sector, the council will address the challenges facing the industry up to and beyond the millennium. I have full confidence in the chairm an and the board appointed.

Subhead B8 - the subhead for small business expansion loan scheme - is for £540,000. This is an important incentive for the development of tourism which was introduced in the 1994 budget. A £100 million loan fund was made available to small businesses in the manufacturing, tourism and international trade sectors of which £25 million was allocated for projects in the tourism sector. A Government interest subsidy of 3 per cent applied to loans under the scheme enabled borrowers to avail of loans at the rate of 6.75 per cent.

Subhead B9 is an EU support measure for small business - tourism - and includes an amount of £1.3 million. A subsidised loan scheme for small business was launched by the Minister for Enterprise and Employment in September 1995; £52 million or 25 per cent of the fund was reserved for the tourism sector fund administered by the four main banks. Loans were for a fixed term of seven years at a fixed interest rate of 6.5 per cent. The interest subsidy is jointly funded by the EU, the Exchequer and the banks. All funds were drawn down by 31 December 1996. The target of £52 million was exceeded, with a total of £57.7 million of the fund allocated to the tourism sector.

The St. Patrick's festival in 1998 was once again expanded and offered four days of free and accessible fun for everyone in a great celebration of our national identity. It attracted a record audience of 860,000, increased the level of participation and achieved national community involvement by 163 communities. The festival received overwhelmingly positive media coverage at home and overseas. I congratulate the festival committee on its wonderful work. The fireworks display at the Custom House was out of this world. It must have cost Aer Lingus a fortune but it was worth every penny because it was an investment for the future. After this year it marked Dublin as the place to be from here on in. This festival, with all its elements, marked the day Dublin really became a European capital city. By attracting visitors to Ireland during March and gaining positive coverage of Ireland celebrating at this time, the St. Patrick's festival makes an important contribution to the seasonality issue, showing Ireland as a great place to be whatever the weather or time of year.

From a tourism perspective, Ireland's millennium will be built around festivals and events in Ireland, with the hugely popular St. Patrick's festival playing a central role. The idea is simple, practical and far-reaching - to harness the talents and vision of some of Ireland's existing festivals and work with them, to link them together into a triumphant millennium celebration. The theme of the project is "The party starts here". These are my Department's millennium festival plans. The overall celebrations will be dealt with by a Cabinet subcommittee but these plans have already been launched by my Department. Derek Keogh, the former Chairman of Aer Rianta, will be in charge of that and it will be based around the St. Patrick's festival. We will not start anything new as 300 wonderful festivals are held annually nationwide. We will make sure we concentrate on the major festivals so that they will be given an enhanced profile over the coming years which they will be able to maintain for many years after the millennium. We set up a committee which is taking suggestions from all festival committees throughout the country as to what should be done.

I wish to refer to the regional tourism marketing initiative which was launched in January. It focuses on the promotion within the home market of short breaks in Ireland, with emphasis on the off peak season.

I now turn to the Estimates for sports and recreation. I am concerned as are all Deputies, about young people involved in swimming who have written about this matter. The IASA is the body to which I must give funding. I must wait for the Murphy report before I make any decision on funding for swimming. Perhaps, the IASA will not be the body to which I will be able to provide funding. I am at a loss about the position of swimming but I fully understand what the young people must put up with. An injunction was brought against the completion of the report. Every citizen has a right to bring an injunction and, unfortunately, I can do nothing but allow the court to proceed. The injunction has been withdrawn and the report has been completed. It is currently being examined by the Attorney General's office and as soon as I receive his advice I will make as much of it public as is possible.

However, the IASA may not be involved in funding unless I find out what it has done to put its house in order. I received correspondence but I want to make sure people are aware that is the position. The report will be available very shortly and I hope to resolve the matter over the next few weeks.

The funding available for current expenditure for sport has been significantly increased in 1998; there has been an increase of over 20 per cent on the 1997 Estimate provision. This increase in funding is enabling me, working closely with the Irish Sports Council, to support the strengthening of our national governing bodies of sport in terms of their administrative and organisational abilities. Well structured and well run governing bodies, working effectively and with clear and coherent development plans, are a prerequisite for a successful and thriving sports sector.

The Peace Agreement in Northern Ireland will provide an unprecedented opportunity to develop closer links to ensure that sport can be developed on an all-island basis and to our mutual benefit, North and South. Close and continuing contacts are already well established with the Sports Council for Northern Ireland across a broad range of areas. Two joint programmes are currently under way in cross Border co-operation - the first is Youth Sport Foyle, a pilot programme aimed at developing school sport, and the second is the development of leadership training in the area of recreation and sport.

It is my intention, in the context of the Peace Agreement, to accelerate and enhance the level of co-operation so that sport in Ireland can grow and develop in an environment of goodwill and spirit of friendship and shared commitment. The establishment of the sports council on a statutory basis is a key area of policy and the work being carried out and the development of new initiatives for the improvement of Irish sport will be greatly facilitated by having a dedicated statutory sports council in place. The necessary legislation is currently being prepared and in the meantime a number of key development and secretarial staff for the council are in the process of being recruited.

I will now deal with the sports capital programme operated by the Department. This important programme provides public funding towards the provision of sports facilities at national, regional and local level. It is the primary vehicle for promoting the development of sport and recreation facilities in Ireland. The programme was first introduced in the early 1970s and the current programme, which has operated since 1988, consists of two schemes. The recreational facilities scheme assists voluntary community organisations in the provision and improvement of recreational, leisure and community facilities. The maximum grant payable under this scheme is £50,000 but, given the limited funds available for allocation and the huge number of applications received, the average grant provided is about £10,000. The major facilities scheme is a multi-annual sports capital programme which assists the provision of major sports facilities at national, regional and local level. The scheme was first introduced in 1988 when the Government approved the establishment of regional and local sports centres at some 25 designated locations. The average grant under the scheme would be about £200,000.

The amount provided in the 1998 Estimates for the sports capital programme is £9 million, of which £3 million is in respect of the recreational facilities scheme and £6 million is in respect of the major facilities scheme. This new allocation represents a huge increase in the level of funding for the programme and will enable the Department to provide much needed assistance for the establishment and completion of sports facilities around the country. It will also provide much needed funds to the many voluntary and community groups throughout the country whose dedication and commitment in providing facilities must be recognised.

As announced in the budget, £20 million is being allocated to the development of Croke Park over a three year period. I am proposing an allocation of £7 million this year towards the project.

I recently announced the introduction of a new scheme of supports for Ireland's high performance players and athletes to be known as the international carding scheme. The details of this new scheme have been developed by the Irish Sports Council and the National Coaching and Training Centre in Limerick over the past 12 months in consultation with both the national governing bodies of sport and the athletes themselves. This scheme will replace the outstanding sportspersons grant scheme which was in operation in the Department of Education and Science for over ten years. The new scheme willconcentrate on four major categories in the development of a high performance player/athlete: junior, developmental, international class and world class. It is estimated that a total of 150 athletes will qualify under the scheme.

Having recently announced allocations of £3.6 million to the national governing bodies to assist their planned developments in 1998 and having obtained £1.6 million in the budget for certain schemes, I am pleased to announce that the international carding scheme will have a budget of £1 million in 1998. This represents a significant increase in direct funding to the athletes in terms of financial support and services and is double the amount allocated under the old scheme in 1997. The scheme operates in this way. If athletes are ranked between numbers one and three in the world in their sports - we have three athletes in this category - they will receive allocations of £24,000. There is a sliding scale and from there on the lower athletes are ranked. In addition to the funding, athletes receive medical and other support which was heretofore unknown. Any professional athlete will say that one of their worst fears is injury, because of the cost. They will now receive the grant and, by obtaining the carding system, they will eligible for free medical services such as physiotherapy and other services. I am pleased to say that the scheme compares favourably with similar schemes in operation in other European countries. In the UK a grant of £25,000 is available, but one would need to be Superman to receive it because of the criteria attached to it. Our grant is £24,000, whereas Germany gives £15,000 and Australia and New Zealand £10,000. We probably offer one of the highest levels of grant aid for high performance athletes as a result of the carding scheme. This new initiative will form an integral part of the Government's overall policy to develop a more focused sports strategy in Ireland, particularly in the area of high performance.

I note a delegation from the committee is to visit the National Coaching and Training Centre in Limerick. Since its inception it has played a central role in the overall development of sport in Ireland. The centre represents a centre of excellence within Irish sport. For example, it has developed infrastructures in coaching and coach education, player/athlete support services, sports information services, training and residential facilities and technical services. The NCTC has also been a vital component of the development of many new initiatives within the sports area. For example, it has been to the fore in developing sports specific criteria with the national governing bodies of sports in the context of the new international carding scheme for high performance players/athletes and assisting the national governing bodies in the development of long-term planning, including both player/athlete supportsystems and coaching and coach educationsystems.

I understand that arising from the recent appearance of Mr. John Treacy, chairman of the Irish Sports Council, before the committee, members intend visiting the NCTC tomorrow. I appreciate that the committee's main concern is with issues relating to the education and certification of coaches. In this context I am sure it will be impressed with the work the NCTC has undertaken over recent years in the development of a national coaching and development programme. I am sure committee members will find their visit to Limerick most informative and that they will be impressed by the operation and work of the NCTC. It has overnight facilities for teams, who can spend months there if they so wish. The Irish rugby or soccer team could spend a month training there. The facilities are phenomenal and it is good that there is such a centre of excellence, although I do not believe it is well known that it exists. I am sure those who visit it tomorrow will be pleased with it.

Responsibility for local development in my Department rests with the Minister of State, Deputy Flood, who will speak on that subject now.

The local development subhead D1 provides funding under the Operational Programme for Local Urban and Rural Development for the salaries and travel costs of the county strategy liaison team. The primary objective of the operational programme is to provide an integrated approach to local development through a cohesive framework which will assist in promoting enterprise creation and employment, a reintegration of the long-term unemployed and other marginalised groups into the labour market, promoting education and training measures to prevent early school leaving, and the regeneration of the environment in inner cities, towns and villages. The cohesive framework is one in which individuals and communities throughout the country will be prime movers in the planning and execution of the development initiatives. As the programme has developed and become established, there has been a significant acceleration of spends. This is reflected in the substantial increase in the subhead allocations. The programme, which is part of the overall CSF for Ireland, is funded jointly by the Structural Funds and the Government. The total funding to the end of 1999 is £348 million.

Subhead D2 deals with the urban initiative and provides funding under the Operational Programme - URBAN Ireland - 1996 to 1999. The operational programme to implement the EU-wide URBAN community initiative in Ireland was established by the EU Commission to address in an integrated way a range of problems associated with socio-economic exclusion within deprived sections of inner cities and peripheral urban areas. The initiative comprises four subprogrammes for two areas in Dublin, one in Cork and a technical assistance subprogramme. The URBAN initiative was formally approved by the EU Commission on 31 July 1996. Steering groups in the three selected areas of Ballymun - Finglas - Darndale, Tallaght - Clondalkin and the north side of Cork city further developed their strategies and action plans for their areas. These were presented to the first monitoring committee meeting in October 1996 and approved at the 30 January 1997 meeting. The total Structural Funds contribution for the URBAN initiative in Ireland is £16.25 million, which is 50 per cent European Regional Development Fund and 50 per cent ESF. With Exchequer co-financing, the total allocation for the initiative is approximately £21 million. In the early stages of the programme the steering groups were developing the detail of their projects, so activity level was relatively low. Expenditure has steadily increased as more and more projects come on stream.

Subhead D3 provides funding for the programme for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and in Border counties. It was established following the ceasefires in autumn 1994. The aim of the programme is to reinforce progress towards a peaceful and stable society and to promote reconciliation by promoting urban and rural regeneration, developing cross-Border co-operation by extending social inclusion, increasing economic development and creating employment. The twin strategic objectives are to promote the social inclusion of those who are at the margins of social and economic life and to exploit the opportunities and address the needs arising from the peace process in order to boost economic growth and advance social and economic regeneration.

The programme is administered through a combination of Government Departments, statutory agencies, intermediary organisations and district partnerships. The district partnerships, as administering bodies, are particular to Northern Ireland. In the southern Border counties public sector agencies and intermediary organisations have responsibility for delivering the programme. In terms of project actions it is important to note that the theme of social inclusion is given particular prominence with 30 per cent of total funds being committed to social inclusion. While it is a subprogramme in its own right, it is also of fundamental value across the whole programme and is a prerequisite in all the other subprogrammes and measures.

The Department of Finance is the lead Department for the peace programme, which is administered at intermediary level by this Department and the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Social Community and Family Affairs and Education and Science. This subhead, which includes a provision of £6.402 million in 1998, provides funding for nine measures of the programme, for which ADM is the implementing body through its offices in Monaghan. The effort required to ensure that strategies, plans and projects were properly prepared and evaluated resulted in a slow rate of spend in the early years of the programme. In the latter half of 1997 there was an exponential increase in funding commitments approved by ADM which will have a corresponding impact on expenditure levels in 1998 and 1999.

Subhead D4 deals with the drugs initiative. Some £10 million has been included in my Department's Vote this year towards the Government's drugs initiative. This money will meet the cost of the implementation of action plans prepared by the local drugs task forces and will also cover the administrative expenses of the national drugs strategy team. Last year 13 local drugs task forces - 12 in the greater Dublin area and one in north Cork city - were set up in areas identified as having the worst levels of drug abuse, especially of heroin.

The task force comprises a partnership between the statutory, voluntary and community sectors. These were mandated to examine the nature and extent of the drug problem in their areas and to prepare action plans to provide a co-ordinated integrated response to the problem The plans were to include strategies in relation to treatment, rehabilitation and education/prevention which complemented and added value to existing or planned mainstream programmes and services. The plans, as members will be aware, were submitted to the national drugs strategy team for assessment. I can say that decisions regarding their implementation were taken by Government and the implementation of the full plan is now under way.

It is proposed to carry out an evaluation of the local drugs task force process during the course of the current year and the results of this evaluation will form the review of the Government's overall drugs strategy which is scheduled to take place in the autumn.

This subhead provides for moneys received by way of appropriations-in-aid to the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation Vote. The receipts are draw downs of European Social Fund moneys in respect of three EU programmes - LURD, URBAN and Peace and Reconciliation which are administered by my Department. The Estimate and appropriations-in-aid receipt for 1998 is projected at £7.589 million.

I thank the Committee for their attentionand my officials and I are happy to answer questions.

Thank you, Minister, for the wide ranging presentation of your Estimates under various subheads. We have an agreed formula for discussion and so I call on the Fine Gael spokesperson, Deputy Allen, to make an opening statement.

I thank the Minister for his detailed presentation. The tourism industry has seen very impressive growth over the last number of years and, with the dramatic improvement in the Northern Ireland situation, we should see unprecedented growth over the next number of years. EMU and the certainty in currency levels should also benefit the development of tourism.

This rosy scenario should not lull us into a false sense of complacency. Negative factors which may arise on the international scene could have a serious impact on the industry. Since we now have a favourable international climate, the success of the industry is raising a number of problems. For example, CERT, the training agency to the tourism and leisure sector, is finding it difficult to find recruits for courses due to begin this autumn despite the fact that it is spending approximately £3 million on promotion and advertising. It is estimated that between 500 and 600 training places will not be filled. This is not good news for an industry where job vacancies are at record levels. The Minister himself has referred to the fact that tourists coming to Ireland like to be dealt with by Irish nationals. At one stage experts were predicting that a number of hotels were so short staffed that there were doubts if they would open this season. This has come about because in the past year 4,000 new hotel beds have become available with 2,000 job vacancies in the industry. Tourism is facing competition from other industries for scarce labour and demand for workers is outstripping supply. Will the Minister inform Members what his plans are to deal with this issue of labour shortage, when the annual report of CERT will be published and if this problem is being addressed by CERT in their annual report. I would have expected the annual report to be published by now.

The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation published its plans for the tourism industry earlier this week. I am awaiting a copy of their report, but articles in the press indicate that among the issues dealt with is that of funding of tourism when the operational programme concludes in 1999. I would have thought that other Members of the Oireachtas would have been invited to such an auspicious occasion as the launch of this plan. We all have the development of the tourism industry at heart. Invitations to the launch of a report by a body which represents all interests in tourism should not be done on a political basis. Opposition Members will consider the report and deal as positively as we can with the issues raised in it.

I note the increase in the marketing budget for this year but an even greater emphasis on the need to market Ireland as a destination, especially the regions outside the Dublin area, is needed. Over the last number of months I carried out a survey of opinions on the imbalance of regional growth in tourism. My report is informal because some of the tourism officials I consulted felt they could give a more honest and direct opinion if their comments were not attributed to them. The opinions were honestly given by people holding major positions in the industry. They were asked by me what the priorities were for tourism after 1999 and, specifically, which issues were crucial in view of the expected reduction of EU funding after that date.

The general view was that spending should be divided between investment in the tourism product and in marketing that product. Of the two, the qualified consensus favoured marketing investment over product investment. I describe this as a qualified consensus because not everyone consulted favoured one type of investment over the other but those expressing a preference gave marketing investment the edge. In dealing with regional imbalance in tourism growth, the further from the east the interviewee was located the more the priority shifted towards investment in infrastructure and the problem of access. This seems natural. Even in the west and southwest, high, if not top priority was given to marketing investment. Opinions given included the following: without marketing, infrastructural development is useless; marketing is still grossly underfunded; the industry now seems mature enough to develop on its own except in the Border counties, the southwest and west; the private sector will have to be much more involved and the industry should capitalise on existing investment with better markets.

There was a divided opinion on grants for development. Some were of the opinion that these grants created an uneven playing field. The major point made was that tourism industry management should be more regionally dispersed as there is a general feeling that the problems of regionality and seasonality could be more directly addressed if the individual regions had more hands on input into the affairs of the industry at national level.

One suggestion was that by giving the individual more power in deciding policies, the issue of regionality would be a focus issue for the industry. Of course, those mentioning this were mostly regional officials themselves.

I received some very candid complaints about the general state of the industry and while some were not particularly constructive, some should be mentioned. One commented that the extra growth in holidaymakers is not as great as the figures indicate because a large segment of visitors are business visitors and that the level of growth in the holiday sector away from the east coast is overrated. Another opinion expressed was that tourism as a large employer and a growing force in the economy deserves a far greater slice of the Government cake. These are candid opinions from sources within the industry and they must be listened to.

In dealing with the imbalance in regional growth from double digit figures on the east coast to single figures in other areas, the loss of duty free facilities will have a negative effect on the regions. For example, the cost of travelling to and from Ireland will increase dramatically if, as seems likely, the EU abolished duty free sales from next year. The loss of duty free could add up to £17 to travel tickets and may result in the loss of up to 8,000 jobs.

In response to a question I put to the Minister, he said that he had not met formally with his counterparts on this issue since taking office. The Minister of State, Deputy Flood, had a meeting last year with some of his counterparts, but the Minister has had no formal meetings with his European counterparts to deal with this issue in the last year. This is a serious neglect by the Minister on an issue which will have a major impact on tourism development.

The construction of a national conference centre was a commitment given by Fianna Fáil before the election. To date there is no commencement date for that project and indications are that it will be distant. The Minister referred briefly to it but I would like him to give us more detail on the matter. Is he confident of meeting the deadlines and overcoming the problems he seems to have created partly through his decisions? I am concerned at the inept manner in which the project has been dealt with since last summer. I hope it will not result in the EU funding for the project being lost.

The rates of VAT are another important issue for tourism in Ireland. Between full-time, part-time and seasonal employment the tourism industry provides the equivalent of 108,000 full-time jobs, that is 8 per cent of jobs in Ireland. There are 42,000 working in the hotel sector and 26,000 employed in the restaurant industry. In the past ten years one in three new jobs results from the growth in tourism. For every additional £1 million of tourism revenue an extra 31 full-time jobs are created. Another analysis indicates that the relationship between consumer expenditure in tourism and job creation is even greater, at 82 full-time jobs created or sustained for every £1 million spent.

In 1985 the VAT rate on accommodation was reduced to 10 per cent and is now at 12.5 per cent. The reduction in the VAT rate has had a positive impact on the development of the industry and all sectors have gained. I ask the Minister to indicate his attitude to a definitive rate of VAT in the EU and the implications on the VAT rate for labour intensive industries. If VAT rates on the Irish tourism product are increased it will be a disaster for the industry and for employment generally.

I take issue with the Minister's statement that Dublin is the place to be on St. Patrick's Day. If we are attempting to promote regional growth in tourism that is a slogan we should not use. Ireland is the place to be on St. Patrick's Day. Investment in St. Patrick's Day events should be distributed around the country. Dublin's event was a great success this year but the event in Cork struggles because it gets no support from Bord Fáilte. The Minister and Bord Fáilte should realise that Dublin is not Ireland. People want to go to parts of the country other than Dublin on St. Patrick's Day. There should be a more even-handed approach to the disbursal of funds to festive events.

At the outset the Chairman referred to the inquiry into the allegations of sexual abuse in swimming. Despite what the Minister said, I am not happy that he is dealing with the matter in a proper way. I ask him to lift the sanctions imposed on the Irish Amateur Swimming Association because the only people who are being penalised are the young athletes who wish to pursue their sporting pastimes. As we warned the Minister, because of the inadequacies of the inquiry's terms of reference and its having been mishandled, the affair has dragged on for too long.

I acknowledge that priority must be given to the protection of children at all times. However, also at issue is the survival of a sport which serves thousands of people throughout Ireland and which has a positive impact on every person who learns to swim through the IASA's extensive education programme. The Government should not penalise the innocent victims, the athletes who represent the country and who are preparing for international competitions. How does the suspension of funding allow the IASA to further protect swimmers? I do not understand the line of thought involved.

If the Minister faces difficulties with this matter surely he can find a mechanism to fund the swimmers other than through the association. As an interim measure, pending the publication of the inquiry's report, he should direct the moneys through the Sports Council to the swimmers most seriously affected, those representing the country in international competitions. Mr. John Treacy and his colleagues are experienced in sports administration and would be able to direct funding to the people affected by the ham-fisted manner in which the sanctions were imposed. The matter is at crisis point with the imminent widespread cancellation of teams representing Ireland at home and abroad. The Minister should be positively decisive for once and to accept that the sanctions are hurting those who should not be targeted.

I received a letter from the IASA which contradicts many of the points made by the Minister in the Dáil. It sets out in detail the effects of the suspension of funding to its members and its activities. The matter should be reconsidered. The Minister should allow the Sports Council to deal with the funding of our top swimmers. To my knowledge there is no legal impediment to doing so.

I received a fax this morning from the Mountaineering Council of Ireland. It is at serious risk of having to suspend an expedition to the Himalayas. I regret the decision to discontinue the funding of the international mountaineering expeditions. The change in criteria without reference to the national governing body for mountaineering is a particularly disturbing development. The first Irish ascent of Mount Everest was celebrated on an all-Ireland basis and the Minister should avert the consequences of a lack of funds on the plans of this Irish team, which is deserving of the country's support.

There is a precedent going back to 1988, when Joss Lynam was involved; in 1989 there was funding for a trip to Nepal, and in 1991 an Irish expedition was funded. Grant aid was provided to the first Irish team attempting to climb Mount Everest in 1993; £20,000 was granted towards the Shackleton boat expedition in 1997 and £20,000 was given to Mr. Pat Falvey to complete the remainder of his programme for climbing the highest peaks on the seven continents. The Minister should seek to have consultations with the Irish Sports Council. Sports is not just about winning specific events or doing specific times; it is about participation. Mountain climbing cannot be gauged by specific times or by reference to other performances. Surely Irish people trying to climbing the highest peaks in the world to raise the Irish flag are deserving of our support.

Is the Deputy going to speak on the subheads?

No. The Taoiseach said some weeks ago in the Dáil that we would have statutory Sports Council legislation within four weeks. He subsequently indicated it might take eight weeks. When will that legislation be published? Fine Gael published a Private Members Bill in this regard which was quite disingenuously dismissed by Deputy Flood as being badly drafted.

I put up a reasoned argument.

The Deputy did not put up a reasoned argument. He made a speech on behalf of the Minister.

The record shows reasoned argument.

No, no arguments or reasons were supplied. Fine Gael are the only party to have produced legislation in relation to a statutory Sports Council. As of now, with a team of civil servants and a whole Department behind the Minister, he has failed to publish the legislation promised before the election last year.

We have been very busy.

The Deputy has been very busy doing nothing. The carding system referred to by him was published in February 1997 and was only announced two weeks ago. That is how busy the Minister of State has been.

A drug testing programme was promised earlier in the Minister's term of office but has not yet seen the light of day. The Opposition again published a programme in this regard. The Minister is very busy doing very little but claiming credit for things done many terms ago, most of what are contained in Targetting Sporting Change in Ireland, which was published in February 1997. When will the statutory Sports Council legislation be available? When will we have a drug testing programme? I believe that every athlete representing this country abroad or at home is compromised by the fact that we do not have the national drug testing programme which we were promised many months ago. There is no point in crying crocodile tears if athletes are the victims of unfair attention when we do not provide a system to protect them.

Will the Minister outline, in the context of the funding of organisations, what is the present state of play with the Olympic Council of Ireland and if they are producing the accounts and details required for proper book-keeping?

The Deputy's contribution was supposed to be by way of opening statement but contained many questions. We will give the Minister time to reply to the questions. No one is available from Democratic Left to make an opening statement so I will take this opportunity of asking any other member of the committee who has a specific question to ask to do so.

I welcome the increase in the Estimate and the funding available to CERT. A delegation from the employers associations made the point at another subcommittee that it was very difficult to attract people to the tourism industry and catering in particular. They quoted a figure of 3,000 vacancies in that area and only 1,000 people made themselves available for interview. What can we do to attract people to tourism-related industry and in particular the catering sector? I would like to compliment CERT on a job well done so far. They are faced with the difficulty of a lack of interest in the area which I hope the Minister can try to resolve.

The Minister mentioned in his speech that he would like to develop closer links to ensure that sport can be developed on an all-Ireland basis. While I do not wish to pre-empt the North-South bodies or what they will consist of, what is the Minister's view on the establishment of a 32 county soccer team?

Before we deal with the subheads, perhaps the Minister would reply to questions.

I would like to reply to the accusations made against me by Deputy Allen in relation to where is the sports Bill, where is the carding system and where is the drugs testing programme? The same questions where asked about the Ryder Cup and the Tour de France. One will not get a Tour de France or Ryder Cup or anything else unless you go to your Minister for Finance with a budget and negotiate it. The Ryder Cup was an aspiration on their behalf. We had to go to the Minister for Finance and prove to him it was going to be good for the country. We were given £4 million by the Department of Finance. We then had to seek funding from the private sector. We had to make a deal with the PGA and between us we arrived at a figure of £7.6 million. One does not get anything by organising junket trips in log cabins at a cost of £50,000. I had to cancel those trips. One has to be able to negotiate these things with the people involved.

The Sports Council Bill will probably be ready in eight weeks. The carding system put in place by the Deputy's party is nothing like the system we have put in place. The drugs testing programme is at an advanced stage. I will be making an announcement in that regard very shortly. Everything takes time. Every time I brought something before Cabinet, Deputy Allen announced a press conference either that day or the day before. It appeared that he was trying to pre-empt what I was doing. The introduction of the drugs testing programme and the carding system also required going to the Minister for Finance and making a case for £1.6 million, which we got. Nothing is obtained until you get funding from the Minister for Finance. That has to be done through the Estimates. All the issues referred to by the Deputy were aspirational.

I never mentioned the Ryder Cup.

That is probably an embarrassment for the Deputy.

The situation in relation to the swimming saga has dragged on for far too long. Every citizen has the right to bring an injunction. I have engaged Dr. Murphy to carry out the inquiry. He is a man of integrity. He put a team together who have worked diligently on that matter. I cannot help that more people wished to give evidence before the inquiry as it drew to a close. I could not understand why articles appeared in the newspapers by a number of high profile swimmers asking why they had not been requested to attend the inquiry when the papers quite categorically stated that everybody has a right to come forward. When these people requested permission to come forward could we deny them that right? We could not. All the people involved in the swimming arena wanted to ensure there was as full a report as possible. That is what they will get. I mentioned earlier that it was with the AG, but it is with the inquiry team about to go to the AG.

There are problems with the funding of the swimming association, but the current method of funding is through the IASA. While it may be indicated that it could be funded through the Sports Council, I am not going to give any funding until I am assured that swimming is safe for young people. I currently do not have an association in which I can have complete confidence for the 7,000 children involved every day. It is unfortunate that we are in this situation but I hope other organisations will learn from what has happened in swimming and that young people in all sports will be better protected, but I cannot do anything until the Murphy report is published.

I admire the people involved in expeditions to such places as K2. I came before the committee with applications for all national governing bodies in February so they could all be funded in early March and April. They brought their proposals to the Sports Council. The Mountaineering Council of Ireland brought its proposals and was given £24,750 for its involvement in the expedition. However, it has not taken the K2 expedition into account because, although it included it in its funding, the expedition was disregarded when the £24,750 was allocated. Moreover, last year £7,000 was given to the K2 expedition. That expedition has been fund raising for the last two years. When I asked for the most recent figures concerning the expedition, costs of £38,000 were detailed. That may have gone up but the original cost was estimated to the Sports Council as £100,000. The factual costs are £38,000, the organisation was given £7,000, the Mountaineering Council of Ireland was given £24,750 and I gave £15,000 to the Dublin-Wicklow Mountain Rescue Group. That shows that I do have an interest and want to help these people. The K2 expedition representatives have requested another meeting with the Sports Council who will facilitate them but, as I said, they have already received £7,000. Should I be more concerned about Dublin-Wicklow Mountain rescue than about climbing a mountain in the Himalayas? While I recognise the value of the K2 expedition, it is more important to ensure that the Dublin-Wicklow Mountain Rescue Group be funded.

Hillary climbed Everest in the mid 1950s and people have trying to climb it ever since. This is a small group of people who have decided to climb this mountain in the Himalayas. Different groups go there week after week to do the same thing. I had to introduce criteria to ensure that we targeted where we put money. Deputy Allen could say that he was going to gather a group together and sail to New Zealand and, according to his criteria, I would have to fund that type of expedition as well. We must try to establish proper criteria. The expedition is worthwhile but this is a small group.

Regarding St. Patrick's Day, we are all Irish; Dublin is our capital city and we are all proud of it and Dublin is the capital city in which to be on St. Patrick's Day but we are competing with other capital cities on that day. If Dublin benefits, Ireland benefits. We all have our own areas but I have to look at this on a national basis.

Happily the group which was delaying the decision on a convention centre in the High Court with a judicial review, as it was entitled to do, withdrew its proceedings yesterday. That allows us to go ahead with the negotiated procedure. I appealed last week for people to come to their senses in the interests of the State and its economy and to move on to the negotiated process. We have moved into the process called by Bord Fáilte and the teams are prepared to enter it. I hope there will be no more objections of this type. We are running out of time if we are to get a convention centre. I appeal to those involved to go forward and ensure that we get one. I appreciate what the last Government went through and hope I learned from the experience. I do not blame the last Government for failing to provide a conference centre because the mechanisms and criteria are exceptionally difficult. We have both played a role in obtaining this conference centre for Dublin. If we do not get the conference centre, let us lose it on the pitch not in the courts or the boardrooms of the EU.

I am concerned about CERT and the training of young people. I said in a number of speeches that the rapid rate of growth in the industry is leaving us behind. Deputy Allen is correct, people want to be served by well trained, young Irish people. If 5 million tourists come here, the people they will remember are those whom they meet when they are being served. Irish people will never again regard the area of service as servility. We must do away with the idea that those working in service areas are servile. People should be proud to work in tourist and catering areas and they should receive greater recognition. CERT is one of many institutions which is training young people but I am concerned that there are 500 places unfilled. I hope to be able to do something about that. The tourism industry is one of the most vibrant areas of a successful economy but its image here is not good.

I am delighted the hotel industry and recently the restaurant association introduced quality areas to enable people become more focused. More innovative ideas will be added and all this will make it more lucrative to invest in the tourism industry. The industry must also examine pay and services.

Deputy Timmins asked about sport being organised on an all-Ireland basis. Of course I would like to see the whole island proceed on an all-Ireland basis but that is up to the national governing bodies to come together to iron out their difficulties. There is no need for the duplication of organisations. Within the Republic we have a number of governing bodies in the same sport. For example, there are three governing bodies for athletics. Why do we need three governing bodies? If we are going to fund these people they will have to join together. They would progress much better if they came together under the one umbrella organisation.

I congratulate the hockey organisations North and South because they are gradually joining together and the sport is now run on an all-Ireland basis. I am sure more organisations will follow their example. The sporting organisations concerned are responsible for the direction they take. I would like to see all sports run on an all-Ireland basis.

Complaints have been made about the litter problem. I am delighted litter courts have been set up and that people have been fined for litter violations. Legislation has been introduced to ban smoking in areas such as buses, cinemas, offices, etc. If, people wish to smoke they must go outside to do so. If you draw a semicircle outside any business you will find you are sitting or standing in a man-sized ashtray. Outside Leinster House you will find the pavements littered with cigarette butts. I am not anti-smokers but I am against them throwing their butts on to the pavements. If you walk along a pavement for 50 yards you will find quite a number of cigarette butts. Therefore, I am delighted the litter courts have been set up and I hope they will continue to operate as they have done this week.

Is there any progress with the report from CERT?

It will be published in June or July.

We have already discussed the 1999 situation and I agree with the Deputy that we have a shortfall in EU funding. Yesterday, I informed the industry that they left out a chapter in their report on who will pay for our tourism industry. We have to work together on this. I do not see any major problems in the future and we will continue to work on our tourism industry. I think I have answered every point raised and the Deputy can pose some of the questions again if he so wishes.

Can the Minister reflect on a comment he made and possibly withdraw it? He commented on the Ryder Cup. A group consisting of Mr. Hugh McKeon, an international golfer, chairman of the Ryder Cup committee and the Musgrave Group; Mr. Des Smith who participated in the Ryder Cup; Mr. Roy Douglas, chief executive of the Irish Permanent; Mr. George Crosby, chief executive of Crosby Publications and Mr. John Comiskey, secretary of the Irish PGA, travelled to Spain in conjunction with an event being organised by the European PGA to promote Ireland as a venue for international golf competitions, specifically the Ryder Cup competition. The Minister described the group's visit to Spain as "a junket to a log cabin". Out of respect for the group I ask the Minister to withdraw his allegation.

Of course I have met Mr. Hugh McKeon and he is an admirable person. He agreed with me that this committee, which sought to promote Ireland as the most suitable venue for the Ryder Cup, was superfluous due to the fact that the two areas of tourism and sport had now been merged under the one Department. At that time tourism and sport were separate. Under the Fianna Fáil Government sport was a small sector connected to the Department of Education. These two sectors were vying for this area and a number of committees were set up. I disbanded the committee because I did not see it as a way forward. I then decided to approach the Minister for Finance and secured the money to attract the Ryder Cup here. My actions were not a reflection on the group. When I made that comment I meant that it was a junket in essence but I have nothing against the members of the committee. They are all involved in Irish sport and simply sought to attract the Ryder Cup here. In my opinion a committee was not the best approach and that is why I disbanded the committee.

Again, I ask the Minister to withdraw his comment. He has compounded a serious situation. I ask him to repeat his comments outside this Chamber. The Minister was the only person to mention the Ryder Cup. The group held discussions with the European PGA representatives, Ken Schofield and his officials. At a meeting in Stuttgart in early June it was agreed to hold the Ryder Cup in Ireland and Bord Fáilte were aware of the group's activities.

It was an aspirational agreement. Did the committee budget for the competition?

The Minister did not make provisions for the competition when he was appointed.

I had to make provisions for it and make the deal.

Bord Fáilte were aware of what was happening. In fact the opportunity was taken when the current Government was appointed and the sectors were amalgamated. A great disservice was done to people who did not ask to be on the committee. They were invited to be on the committee. They are very busy people and they used their international contacts for the good of this country. The Minister should withdraw his comment out of respect for these people.

We have had a wideranging discussion on the issue. The Minister referred to the Ryder Cup taking place here in——

No one else mentioned it.

The Minister mentioned it in his introductory speech.

Deputy Allen, as the previous Minister for Sport, set up the committee and allocated £50,000 to enable the group to travel to Spain just to discuss the Ryder Cup. The cost included first class air tickets and accommodation in a villa. When I was appointed I could not justify the trip even if it was the right way to go about it. If I or any Minister went on a trip like it I would regard it as a junket. First class air fares and accommodation is not the way to attract the Ryder Cup. I know it was necessary to discuss the issue and decisions may have been taken in June but you have to be direct. The European PGA require money up-front and their initial fee was £10 million. We had to make a deal with them and eventually they settled for an initial fee of £7.6 million. I then approached the Exchequer and the private sector for that amount and the deal was made. The earlier agreement in June was purely aspirational. Sending people to Spanish villas travelling on first class tickets was inappropriate.

I will not allow further discussion on this matter.

The cost allocated would have included all marketing and relevant material required.

The Minister has given his opinion. All the efforts by that committee, Deputy Allen and the Minister has resulted in securing the Ryder Cup for Ireland in 2005. The Minister referred to that in great detail.

No one else mentioned it.

The Minister mentioned it in the earlier part of his speech. A7 deals with consultancy services.

Could we have a breakdown of the range of costs from £37,000 to £100,000 spent on consultancy services?

For consultancy services the 1998 Estimate is £100,000; it was only £37,000 for 1997. This subhead provides for fees and expenses in respect of consultancy assignments and other commissioned surveys and studies for the Minister, the Minister of State and the Department. Expenditure of £36,000 has been incurred to date in respect of the following consultancies: Mr. Bart Cronin our press officer has been paid approximately £8,000 to date in respect of services provided as a press and media consultant in the press office to the Department. His appointment which is for one year initially commenced on 8 September 1997. Mr. Cronin is responsible for the provision of information services, including the preparation and issue of press releases responding to queries from the press and general public, monitoring media coverage in relation to the activities of the Department, script writing and other media related activities as required. His annual remuneration amounts to £24,583.26 and is paid from subhead A7 of the Vote. Mr. Pádraig Ó hUiginn will also be paid from this subhead.

A consulting group was engaged in late 1997 through a competitive tendering process to facilitate the formulation of the Department's strategy statement as part of the strategic management initiative. A final payment of £24,000 was made in March 1998.

As part of the ongoing evaluation and assessment of the tourism operational programme 1994-9 Fitzpatrick Associates has been paid £4,000 approximately in the first quarter in respect of services provided in 1998 as external evaluators. Consultancy work is expected to continue on the programme for the remainder of the year, including additional costs under this subhead.

At this stage there are no planned consultancies arranged for the remainder of 1998. However, it is probable that some consultancy assignments will be required, for example, in relation to the implementation of new financial managements systems which are being developed under the SMI - Delivering Better Government - and in relation to partnership plans under Partnership 2000.

Subhead A7 agreed to.

Why is there an increase from £26,000 in 1997 to £57,000 in 1998 under subhead A8 which deals with the cost of publicity incurred by the Department?

This subhead provides for the payment of the costs of general advertising and publicity by the Department. The increase in 1998 is due to the growing importance and the consummately higher profile of sport being added to the Department. In order words, it is now a dual area.

Is the Department now obliged to publish statutory notices? Does that figure include the cost of such notices?

Yes to both questions.

Subhead C1 deals with general expenses for sports organisations.

Can the Minister reply to my question about the Olympic Council of Ireland commission?

I have not had a response from the OCI recently except for their request for funding for 1998. In the context of the revised funding that was produced in 1997 in respect of the national governing bodies, it was considered appropriate to devise a new funding application form for the Olympic Council of Ireland. This new form issued to the OCI last March was returned to my Department on Tuesday, 12 May 1998. The OCI is seeking State support of over £500,000 in 1998 to cover management and administration costs, the provision of information technology and various programmes and activities. Its application is currently being considered within the Department. As the Deputy will be aware it is a huge increase and it is currently being considered.

In the context of subheads C2 to C4, inclusive, we were presented with the 1997 outturn and this was compared to the 1998 Estimate and the Minister then claims there is a 20 or 30 per cent increase. I would like to compare the 1998 Estimate with the 1997 Estimate, not the 1997 outturn. What was the 1997 Estimate?

This has only been in existence since I was appointed.

It was transferred from the Department of Education. There is a qualifying paragraph under each subhead.

About £7.5 million

Is that for C2, C3 and C4?

The Deputy can table a question and then he will get the correct figure.

I will ask it here.

We can research that figure for the Deputy.

That figure should be available.

I will look into the matter and forward the relevant information to the Deputy.

I want to highlight the fact that there is a 1998 Estimate of £9 million for these three subheads; the Estimate was based on the 1997 outturn but I want to know the 1997 Estimate figure.

Does the Deputy want the 1997 Estimate as published by the Department of Education?

The outturn figure we have is for the new Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation.

Do you have the 1997 Estimate?

It can be found in the 1997 Book of Estimates on page 54.

When the Minister talks about a 20 or 30 per cent increase he is comparing it to the outturn figure.

The outturn is a relevant figure.

It can be artificially depressed to show there is a higher increase.

The outturn is what was spent.

Is Deputy Allen's knowledge of outturns based on his own experience?

I imagine it was always based on the outturn. The figures are plain to be seen.

If the outturn is low one then can say there is a 20 per cent increase.

The outturn is what was spent.

I want to see a comparison between the 1997 Estimate and the 1998 Estimate. I am concerned that the total 1998 Estimate for subheads C2, C3 and C4 is £9 million. In the context of the overall figure of £16 million, £7 million will go towards Croke Park this year. They are all related to capital projects. A sum of £9 million is provided——

Subhead C5 is a different programme.

Subhead C5 includes a capital project relating to the development of Croke Park. In the capital budget estimate of £16 million for this year, a total of £7 million has been allocated to Croke Park. Does the Minister have similar plans to support other organisations that have major development programmes?

For the Deputy's information, approximately £7 million has been allocated to Croke Park as part of an ongoing provision of £20 million.

I am delighted about that.

The Deputy may not be aware that there are between £16 and £17 million of ongoing commitments. The Deputy was responsible for giving commitments like snuff at a wake totalling £9.3 million to over 515 projects.

It is a reasonable question. The Minister should not be so touchy.

There are £17 million worth of commitments to other organisations.

The Minister is irresponsible in stating that I gave commitments like snuff at a wake. It was done in accordance with the terms of the scheme.

Commitments totalling £17 million have been made to organisations which have not yet started work on their projects. The money is there for them. When I attempted to pay amounts at the end of last year, I discovered only £0.5 million could be paid out to projects. The Deputy is correct when he says that money has been allocated but, unfortunately, £17 million for capital projects cannot be paid yet because the organisations have not started the work.

They are voluntary organisations and they cannot make final plans until the Department makes a decision. They cannot make definite plans because nothing can be done if they do not receive a grant. The Minister is overlooking the point that grants are the catalyst for further fund raising activities.

I understood the Minister said the grants have been allocated already and the Department is waiting for them to be drawn down for the completion of projects.

That is correct.

Voluntary groups are not in a position to immediately draw down grants.

My point is that while grants can be handed out like snuff at a wake, the projects will never get off the ground because the amounts are insubstantial.

I do not know which PR person gave the Minister the phrase "snuff at a wake" but he keeps using it in the Dáil and at this meeting. Every grant was given in accordance with the terms of the schemes, not like snuff at a wake.

The Deputy gave grants to 515 projects last May, the month before the general election, amounting to £9.3 million. This has put other organisations in dire straits because it has placed a limit on what I can do. I am trying to pay some of the commitments given by the Deputy but I must wait for organisations to come forward with plans for completion of projects. In an effort to bring about more direction in the scheme, I intend to introduce new criteria in the autumn, including a sunset clause. Organisations with worthwhile schemes will have to reapply for grants. However, if they cannot fulfil the criteria, the money will be reallocated.

In the context of the major contribution made to the GAA, which I welcome, has the Minister similar plans to fund other leading sporting organisations, such as the FAI which have major development plans? The last time I raised this matter the Minister appeared to be unaware that the FAI submitted a development plan in respect of grounds throughout the country to the Department almost 18 months ago. Will the Minister treat this organisation and the IRFU when it submits its final plans for a stadium in a similar fashion?

Yes. However, I have not received major proposals from the FAI for the development of any stadium either on its own or in conjunction with others. I have not received any plans from the IRFU for the development of a major stadium. I have received proposals from every soccer club in the country and I meet different clubs almost every week. The Deputy will recall that Shelbourne Football Club received £100,000 this year while the Galway United and Monaghan United Football Clubs also received funding. I will meet representatives of Bohemians Football Club tomorrow. However, the FAI and the IRFU have not submitted any major plans. As soon as they bring forward proposals I will be prepared to consider them.

The Deputy must remember that the £20 million provision for Croke Park is approximately 13 per cent of the overall cost of the project. The remainder is being raised from other sources. When the FAI and IRFU come forward with their plans, I am sure they will also involve the private sector, they and the Government will be prepared to consider their plans in that context. However, it appears the FAI is wondering what the IRFU is doing and vice versa. The athletics organisation, BLE, is also sitting in the wings and could be part of either project. Until concrete plans are submitted, I am unable to be of assistance. However, I will assist clubs individually.

I presume these matters will be discussed when they appear in the Estimates. Does the Minister have a response to Deputy Allen's query about the Estimate and the outturn?

Under subhead C1 of the 1997 Estimate, the sum was £7.854 million. In 1997, the sum for subheads C2 and C5 was £4.8 million. In 1998, the figure is £9 million plus.

The Minister mentioned schemes that were approved last May prior to the election. I presume finance was made available for these decisions. National lottery money is welcome, particularly in rural Ireland. There was much criticism some years ago because national lottery money was allocated to small golf courses. A small course in Tubbercurry received £30,000 from the national lottery. This nine hole course was built by a group which got together and raised funds itself through the sale of £100 tickets. Work on the course was carried out by people on FÁS schemes. This is how this small facility for the people of Tubbercurry was provided.

If groups apply for a grant from the Department for a small golf course in a small town and they are willing to raise funds themselves, for example, through the sale of £100 tickets, such projects are worthy of funding. I do not suggest multinationals who wish to build golf courses should receive grants but small courses in rural towns where people must buy land and develop the facility themselves are worthy of support through national lottery funds.

The national lottery has been of great benefit to the country. Amounts of up to £20,000 have been allocated for the development of small GAA and soccer pitches and other projects. I favour an increase in funding for such facilities and small community parks. They are of great benefit to rural communities which do not have the population to fund them.

Deputy Brennan's point is valid. The Minister might be reluctant to grant money to golf clubs because they are an easy target for the media. Is the funding for swimming pools moving from the Department of the Environment and Local Government to this Department? Deputy Coughlan wanted me to ask that.

Yes, swimming pool funding will be transferred to me shortly. It currently runs to £4 million per year but if I were to pay what is due for this year it would be roughly £8 million, so the Deputy can see where the difficulty arises.

A parliamentary reply yesterday mentioned about ten projects for which money had been provisionally allocated. Will responsibility for the allocation of that money rest with this Department as of 15 June?

It will transfer to my Department; I would not necessarily say it will happen on 15 June, the money may be there already. There are currently eight to ten projects involving new pools or refurbishments. We will have to examine the pools strategy. At present 80 per cent funding is available for swimming pools, which is an extraordinary amount of grant aid, I am considering reducing that to about 60 per cent. That will put local communities under more pressure but it will give me an opportunity to provide for more pools in the allocations. There has been no strategy as regards pools; they have all been built on an ad hoc basis. The repair bills with the Department come to between £40 million and £50 million. In some parts of the country there are four pools within 50 miles, while in other areas there is none. We must examine the matter in a more strategic way.

In response to Deputy Brennan, golf clubs received a bad profile in terms of national lottery funding because it was regarded as an elitist sport. Some golf clubs have hundreds of members - people who just want to enjoy themselves - so I want to revisit the matter. In the last ten years, more than £200 million has been invested in golf, mostly in the tourism operational area. There are 350 courses in the country and, proportionate to our size, we have the third highest number of links courses in the world. Some people within the EU think we have enough courses and some of the course owners think the same but I will consider the matters mentioned by the Deputy as well as other aspects which have not been considered for lottery funding.

Deputies have my encouragement to approach my colleague the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, for extra lottery funding. There has been a split in the camp as regards the grants of £5,000 and £10,000. The high number of those grants is the reason the funding has now reached £17 million. The problem is that much of that money goes on capital projects and therefore a lot of it is spent on VAT. Many of these small grants are of little value, so they stay on the books and start mounting up. Often what happens is that a £100,000 project gets a £5,000 grant. The intention was good and the people are pleased with the grant but the projects were never realised. I am sure this will arise in the debate on the sports Bill but it is better for Deputies to assume individual responsibility and to get a project up and running in their local areas rather than having many small projects and nothing concrete happening.

When is the Minister introducing the sunset clause he mentioned?

It will be included in the new criteria to be published in September or October.

That will concentrate everyone's mind.

The idea - and I am open to suggestions from Deputies on all sides on this - is that if the project does not start within a year one has to reapply.

The Minister said he was considering reducing the grant for swimming pools from 80 per cent of building costs to 60 per cent. In refurbishment projects, 100 per cent of funding is currently available; does he plan to reduce that?

No, although as I say the current refurbishment projects will take a long time and have to be tackled. Local authority swimming pools provide a tremendous service but one can join some of them for less than £3 per week. We will have to introduce realistic charges to keep those facilities going. The cost of running such a facility is enormous. While everyone likes to get involved it is not appreciated that the charges for families are low. If we do not start doing something about these pools they will get into a worse state of disrepair. Something will have to be done at local authority level to create awareness that if one has a facility it is worth looking after.

We have learned that lesson in Tipperary which is why we are taking that approach. Can I take it that subheads D1 to D4, inclusive, are agreed? Agreed. Is subhead E -appropriations-in-aid - agreed? Agreed. That concludes the subheads. I thank the Minister, the Minister of State and his officials for being available and answering all questions, difficult as they were at times.

I am used to being in productive argument with Deputy Allen and I hope that continues. I thank you, Chairman, and the Deputies who attended. I hope they agree we had a constructive and reasonably fruitful exchange on the Estimates, and I also hope I have given them food for thought. I expect there will be much agreement on the sports Bill and I will be prepared to accept amendments in the greater interests of sport. I hope it is passed rapidly because sport is a huge asset to our people. The questions were interesting and I thank Deputies for raising them.

This is the first year these areas have been included in one Department and it has caused some problems. There is a large amount of work involved, Deputy Allen will be aware of that from the time he spent in the Department of Education. It is not all about attending matches and functions. It is a serious area where there is a great deal of co-operation.

I look forward to the day when we will see unity on the island in these sports in light of the British-Irish Agreement. Unfortunately we may have to wait until beyond our time in many sports but we have taken the first steps. The future for sport and tourism is bright and I thank my officials for providing me with this information. When we are gone, they are the permanent Government.

This committee will play a full role in whatever North-South body is set up.

I thank the Minister, the Minister of State and their officials for their co-operation. Our job is to question and make suggestions. I hope some of the suggestions we make are sensible. I also hope there will be more co-operation between both jurisdictions due to the Northern Ireland settlement. There has been co-operation over the past two years in coaching and accreditation in a number of sports and there has been agreement on us using the expertise and experience of the Northern Ireland Sports Council in a drugs testing programme. Those two initiatives will hopefully cause others to develop.

I was worried when the document "Targeting Change in Sport" was published in February 1997. My reservation related to the transferral of sport from the Department of Education to the Department of Tourism and I made that clear at the time, even though I agreed with most of the report. I worried that there would be too much emphasis on high profile sports and sporting events and that sport in our education system and at grassroots level would be neglected. I hope that will not be so and I will be keeping a close eye on it. The initiatives flagged in the document, the development of sport in schools and in the curriculum, will be worked on even though the Minister is in the Department of Tourism.

I asked the Minster for Tourism, Sport and Recreation in the Dáil about the study undertaken of outdoor pursuit centres and he told me this was still a matter for the Department of Education and Science. Have the turf wars been sorted out?

Thankfully that responsibility remains with the Department of Education and Science.

That shows the anomalies which exist in developing sport in the education system. There should be a clearing of the pathways so sport can be developed as part of our education system. That is the real challenge.