Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Ceisteanna (49)

Shane Cassells


49. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the point at which the large-scale sport infrastructure fund will be announced; and if an indicative list of preferential projects has been agreed to date between his Department and the major sporting authorities as to which should receive funding. [22097/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (33 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Transport)

Before I address my question, I wish to acknowledge the passing last night of Michael Lynch from County Meath, a former Member of this House and the Seanad. Michael was a proud representative of the people of Meath and a great friend to me. On behalf of the people of County Meath and the Fianna Fáil Party, I extend my sympathies to his family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

At what point will the large-scale sport infrastructure fund be announced? Has an indicative list of preferential projects been agreed to date between the Department and the major sporting authorities as to which should receive funding?

I too extend my sympathy to the family.

The large-scale sport infrastructure fund provides €100 million over the coming years. The scheme is designed to provide a transparent and robust system for funding sports capital projects where the Government contribution exceeds the amount which is available under the sports capital programme.

The new scheme opened for applications on 19 November 2018 and the closing date for receipt of applications was 17 April 2019. The fund is initially focusing on the requirements and development plans of national governing bodies of sport and local authorities, all of which received letters inviting them to make applications. New swimming pool projects and the refurbishment of existing swimming pools are also eligible for funding under the new scheme.

Full details of the scheme are available on the Department’s website. Among the issues which will be considered when assessing applications are the priority given to the projects by the relevant local authority or national governing body of sport, whether the projects are multifunctional in nature and cater for a number of different sports, and whether the proposed projects are located in a disadvantaged area or cater for people with disabilities.

A total of 72 applications have been received and departmental officials are undertaking an initial assessment of them. Details of all applications submitted have been published on the Department's website. The total amount sought is €172 million.

In view of the detailed information contained in each application, I am advised that it will take a number of months to have all of them assessed. Accordingly, while there will be no undue delay in completing the assessment process, I expect that it will be towards the end of this year before allocations are announced. It is to be hoped that, if we are all here by the end of the year, we will be able to announce them at that stage.

It is to be hoped some of us will be anyway.

I have been asking the Minister of State for a long time, and have submitted parliamentary questions to his office as well, about the discussions between the Department and the governing bodies such as the GAA, the IRFU, the FAI and so forth. They are the bodies that will have preferred grounds they wish to see developed. The names of the grounds have been leaked to the media from day one. The IRFU has leaked that it is the RDS for Leinster Rugby and the FAI has leaked that it is Dalymount Park, although the Minister, Deputy Ross, appears to have poured cold water on that in recent months because of its finances. The names of a number of grounds have been leaked by Cumann Lúthchleas Gael and there has been a changing of the goalposts. One of those grounds is Páirc Tailteann in Navan in my constituency, which the Minister of State has visited. Unfortunately, I was not informed when the Fine Gael ministerial showboat rocked up that day.

That is a regular occurrence.

I would have loved to have been there to welcome it and to offer a detailed presentation as a proud GAA man. I am seeking information on the negotiations on this ground with Cumann Lúthchleas Gael. It is a 20,000 seat proposal and the Minister of State knows it is a strategic ground for the north east. I would be obliged if the Minister of State would give a candid response to my question.

I was reluctant to speak about sports capital grants at all when I saw that it was the Deputy who was asking the question given that he condemned the most recent announcement of sports capital grants.

I condemned the gimmick of the Minister of State electioneering with it.

The clubs throughout the country that received the grant aid were very happy to get it.

It was electioneering.

The debate has been civil all day.

I would love it to be civil again. When we work so hard to put funding in place in the Department and to get it out to the front line, it is very disheartening to hear members of the Opposition condemning us for providing funding for clubs.

Answer the question.

We do our best for the clubs throughout the country, and when one hears members of the Opposition criticising our work, it is disheartening. It is totally political and is beneath the Deputy.

It is not leaking if national governing bodies publicly state what their priorities are in their development plans. It is those bodies telling their members and the public what sporting infrastructure they believe is strategically important to them. The national governing bodies deserve an apology for the Deputy's rant about them leaking. They are not leaking. They are talking publicly about the projects which they consider to be strategically important to their organisations and they are entitled to do that. In the sports capital division in the Department the Minister, Deputy Ross, and I and our officials are working closely with the national governing bodies to assist them in whatever way we can. The large-scale sporting infrastructure fund will provide the facilities that showcase the high-performance athletes who will inspire the next generation of athletes and encourage sporting participation. There is nothing wrong with that and we are proud to assist with it.

The Minister of State used extra time and we are trying to let every Member participate.

Every sports club in Ireland and the national sporting organisations deserve an apology for the flippant manner in which the Minister and the Minister of State treat them, as if they are giving candy to them. That is who deserves an apology. They are the decent community leaders in this country. The Minister of State need not lecture me.

Which clubs would the Deputy take the money from?

He is not talking to the Healy-Raes now. He should sit down.

Which clubs in County Meath would the Deputy take the money from?

The Minister of State had his time and he is trying to waste my time as well.

Please stop. I must ensure there is order in the House, and there has been order for the past hour and 25 minutes.

What a bizarre rant.

You will have an opportunity to speak.

This is a strategic piece of infrastructure. That is heightened by the fact that the local authority supports it and is planning to have Navan central railway station behind the back of the stand. If the Minister, Deputy Ross, ever honours the promise he gave me three years ago to visit Navan and examine that piece of infrastructure, I could get both him and the Minister of State to visit Navan and help the people there and in Meath. A highly detailed cost-benefit analysis for this ground has been carried out in view of the fact that there has been controversy with other major grounds throughout the country. I would welcome both the Minister and the Minister of State to Navan to examine this and, one hopes, support the proposal. Navan and County Meath deserve it.

As the Deputy knows, I was glad to be in Páirc Tailteann last summer during the hot weather and I might be there again in the Super 8 during the summer, all going well.

I wish Meath GAA every success-----

Please be relevant.

If it wins the Leinster senior football championship, we might not be in the same round. I am happy to engage with any national governing body, county board and anybody at any level in sport about their infrastructure needs and capital requirements. We are doing that. We are trying to bring money to as many people as possible at every level of sport. We have committed to doubling our investment in sport between 2018 and 2027, and we got off to a very good start in the most recent budget with a huge increase in the sports budget for current and capital spending. We should be allowed to do that work without politicisation of the process and without being criticised for getting money to the front line and assisting the volunteers without whom sport in Ireland would be much poorer, as would our communities and society.

In fairness, Deputy Cassells is an avid GAA man, as I and many Members are, but he should not be criticising us for rolling out this fund, which is very important for so many people.

We must move on. We will have time for the next question if Deputy Troy forfeits his introduction.

The Minister will have to be speedy in replying. There will be one question after the reply.