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Other Questions (Resumed) (Continued)

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring]  With regard to boxing and disadvantaged areas, 40% of allocations went to disadvantaged areas. In Dublin, I had more money than I needed. Given that more than 50% of projects in Dublin were marked invalid, we had enough money to accommodate every club that submitted a valid application. That did not happen in every other county so that I was not able to target more disadvantaged areas. The figure of 40% is the highest since the scheme began. This is an achievement because the whole point of the scheme is to target areas of disadvantage. I think we have succeeded in that.

The Deputy is correct in what she says about boxing. Last year when I came into office, and before the Olympic Games, I identified boxing as doing great work. Boxing clubs take in people from all sections of society, train them and look after them, and put great discipline into them. Before the Olympic Games, I put €1.2 million in place. The Irish Amateur Boxing Association distributes that money on my behalf. Boxing clubs do not have as many volunteer members as football or rugby clubs. Those who are there are busy training and working with young boxers and do not have the time to make applications to the sports capital programmes, county councils or whatever. The Irish Amateur Boxing Association targets clubs all over the country.

The two best things I spent money on since I became Minister of State are swimming pools and boxing clubs. I introduced a scheme to make it cheaper for pools to be run, and it has worked very well for local authorities. Deputy McLellan asked a straight question and I will give her a straight answer. I am going to do something for boxing in the new year. I have secured the money for a scheme for boxing, particularly because it did so well in the Olympic Games and our boxers did the country proud. Earlier today, I attended an event where Katie Taylor was named Irish Times Sportswoman of the Year. She has been a great ambassador. All our Olympic boxers did the country proud in London. They lifted the morale of the country. That is why I am targeting boxing again this year. They deserve it.

Deputy Sandra McLellan: Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan I am delighted to hear that. I had the honour of watching Katie Taylor box on a couple of occasions. Her award is well deserved. She gave the country such a lift in the summer.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace Wexford received €900,000 in capital sports grants. Given the money the Minister of State had at his disposal, that was fair enough. However, there is serious concern in Wexford, particularly among the soccer fraternity but also among the public in general, that the distribution of the money appears to lack fairness. There is a feeling in Wexford that there may have been political interference, which is something we hoped we had left behind us.

Soccer is probably the biggest sport in the county and we got €40,000 out of the total allocation, which is less than 5%. Applications were submitted by 18 clubs and by the football league itself but only three clubs received funding of €40,000 between them. This does not look balanced and there are some very disgruntled people in the county. The notion that there may have been political interference is a bit frightening.

If more funding becomes available in the next 12 months, I ask the Minister of State to consider the soccer clubs in a favourable manner. I realise that some clubs' applications were rejected for one reason or another. I have looked at some of the refusals. It appeared to me that one could refuse any application if one wanted to do so. The application rules are tight and it is difficult to meet the criteria. It was almost impossible to submit an application that was 100% perfect.

The Minister of State knows what I am saying.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I do.

  The first thing I did was to look at the scheme for the previous ten years and at areas that had done very well. I looked at areas that had done more than well, and I will not be political about that. On this occasion, I looked at areas that had done badly and I increased their funding by 20%. They were places like Carlow, Wicklow and other smaller counties. I left Leitrim alone because it has a small population and a small base of money. I did this on a per capita basis.

  The Deputy is correct. Wexford got what it was entitled to get. Everyone was waiting to see if I would give Mayo one and a half times what I gave everywhere else. I did not. I gave clubs in Mayo, to the penny, what they were entitled to get, and I got into difficulty because of it. This week, the local paper in County Mayo is criticising me because I did not support this or that club. I could not satisfy everybody. I had €270 million worth of applications and €25 million to give out. I did it as fairly as I could.

  We need to support and help clubs to understand the application rules. This does not just apply to ordinary people. I have had applications from professional people, such as solicitors, who still do not know the rules, or do not read them. If a club is applying for a State grant the State must get a charge on the club's property, and that property must be registered. Solicitors were sending the Department leases of six months, a year or five years. This time, for the first time, I said clubs that were applying for grants of €25,000 or less need not take a charge against a property. I allowed them to draw down funds without having their property registered. A grant of more than €25,000 is a major investment and in that case the State demands that the applicant submit a lease of 22 years plus one day. Solicitors continued to send leases of five or 15 years. Let me give an example. Applicants never had as much time to submit because I extended the closing date to 1 June, but one application came in with a lease that extended only to 15 July. It was already invalid by the time the application was sent. The solicitor then sent a new lease but it was for only 15 years. If he had read the guidelines he would have seen that the lease must be for 22 years and one day.

  I did this as fairly as I could and distributed the money as equally as I could. I tried to look at every county and balance urban and rural, soccer, Gaelic and other sports. Deputy Wallace sent me information about applications from County Wexford. They were invalid. In my own town of Westport, there is a soccer and a Gaelic club. The application from the Gaelic club was invalid, and I was criticised over that. I took no club out that was invalid. I asked the Department not to send me applications that were invalid. When one has a limited amount of money one cannot satisfy everyone.

  Deputy Wallace is involved in football and in sport. We have tried to provide facilities for young boys and girls for the future.

Deputy Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I cannot see how the newspapers in Mayo could be at all critical of the Minister of State. I know he has been very fair.

The sports capital grants are important for communities and Dublin is grateful for what it has got. Clubs such as boxing clubs that are trying to develop in the city are working at a disadvantage. A number of grants are often required to create that infrastructure. I am delighted to see funding going to rural areas and I do not, for a second, say it should be reduced. Social infrastructure in rural areas gets €52 million through the Leader fund. All other avenues of funding for urban areas, including Cork, Limerick, Galway and Dublin, have been closed down. In the past, when we wanted to develop a boxing club or a community centre with sporting facilities we applied to the sports capital programme, the dormant accounts fund and several other schemes. All those areas have been closed off. Rural areas have access to the €52 million Leader funding, and this is welcome.

Can the Minister of State and his colleagues look at ways to fund deprived urban areas across the country, because we are losing out? The social infrastructure is falling into bad repair. We need to open up the funding that was closed off, and I understand why, by the previous Government. We must look again at the dormant accounts fund and other social funds that were there previously to allow urban Ireland to get back on its feet again.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring Deputy Humphreys is correct. I am pleased to have been able to help disadvantaged areas this time. I could have spent more money in Dublin but for the situation I have outlined.

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