Private Members' Business. - Irish Olympic Team Funding: Motion.

Tuesday, 23 June 1992

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 421 No. 4

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Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  I move:

That Dáil Éireann condemns the lack of Government support for the

Irish Olympic team and urges the Government to grant additional funds to assist the athletes in their final preparations for Barcelona and to commit themselves to providing moneys for the 1992-1996 Olympic cycle of the order requested in the submission made to the Government by the Irish Olympic Council in 1989.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Seán Barrett.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Is that satisfactory? Agreed.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  I am glad this House has been afforded the opportunity to have a three hour debate on the whole question of the level of funding for the preparation of our top athletes for the Olympic [859] games. This motion is opportune because the Olympics will commence on 25 July and also because of the recent controversy following the intervention by the Minister for Defence, Deputy Wilson, regarding the selection of the swimming team for the Olympics. Mr. Wilson's intervention was unfortunate.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Tánaiste.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  I consider it inappropriate for any politician to get involved in the selection of our Olympic team. It is also very unfair and embarrassing for the young girl involved. The job of Government Ministers is to provide the financial resources necessary for the provision of facilities and training, not to influence team selection: this is the responsibility of the Irish Olympic Council. I will refer to this incident again at the conclusion of my contribution this evening.

Ireland has a proud sporting record. For a relatively small nation we have produced many top class sportsmen and sportswomen.

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  And selectors.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Names, like Seán Kelly, Stephen Roche, Ronnie Delaney, John Treacy, Eamon Coughlan, Catriona McKiernan, Christy O'Connor and Tony Ward come to mind immediately. There are so many more. Irish athletes have won 14 Olympic medals. At the Olympic games in Melbourne in 1956, Irish athletes won five medals. Unfortunately, since then our successes have been limited. The reason for this marked decline is straightforward. In Ireland we have retained an amateur approach to sport while in other countries modern and professional methods have been adopted in relation to facilities, funding and training for sportsmen and sportwomen. While most countries recognise the importance of providing modern, fully equipped sports facilities, Ireland is still lacking even basic provisions. We [860] have no Olympic size swimming pool, no proper gymnastics centre——

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  It was promised often enough.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  ——no proper indoor training facilities for athletics, no centre for the treatment of injuries. I could go on and on. There is almost a total lack of physical education in our primary schools. That is due to lack of trained personnel and facilities. In other countries physical education is given major prominence in primary schools.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  You are late, Tánaiste.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Physical education is now becoming marginalised even in our post primary schools where almost 50 per cent of leaving certificate students are not offered any physical education whatsoever. Those countries which have achieved the greatest success internationally have made provision for daily programmes of physical education at both primary and post-primary levels.

Since Fianna Fáil took over the national lottery in 1987 we have had several announcements both within this Chamber and outside it that the Government were about to provide, among other things, a national indoor stadium and a 50-metre swimming pool. We had the now infamous press conference in Kilmainham in 1987 where the former Taoiseach, surrounded by his Cabinet colleagues and Deputy Frank Fahey, the then Minister for Sport, outlined their plans for a national indoor sports stadium and regional sports stadia. In November 1989 Frank Fahey announced that work would commence in the next two or three weeks on the new national sports centre and that it should be completed within three years.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The then Minister of State.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  The then Minister of [861] State at the Department of Education. Indeed, I have a press release from the said gentleman, dated 16 November 1989, which stated quite clearly the work was to begin soon on a national sports centre. In this press release he promised that work would commence within the next two or three weeks, that the new centre would be completed within the next two or three years and that the bulldozers would be on site within three weeks but we are still waiting.

In February 1992 the new Minister for Education, Deputy Brennan, announced to the Dáil that the Government had abandoned their plans for a national stadium. However, I was glad that, when questioned later, the Minister of State at the Department of Education with responsibility for sport, Deputy Aylward, again indicated that the Government were still considering the provision of a national sports stadium. Will we now be subjected to another list of promises about such a facility?

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  They have taken up the job of selection.

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Aylward): Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam Aylward  Who is speaking? Give the Deputy a chance.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  The national sporting organisations and the sporting fraternity are totally disillusioned with funding for sport in this country. They are disgusted with the manner in which national lottery funds have been allocated and in many cases how they have been used for political advantage. In 1986 my colleage, Deputy Seán Barrett, then Minister of State at the Department of Education, with responsibility for sport, when launching the national lottery at the Berkeley Court indicated that 55 per cent of the profits would go to sport and recreational facilities. It has transpired that only 14.8 per cent of the total income from the national lottery has been allocated to sport. The entire takings from the national lottery since 1987 is in the region of £757 million — a massive amount by any stretch of the imagination.

[862] From the entire takings the Government have received £245 million, of which £36.5 million, or 14.5 per cent, has been spent on sport. It seems ridiculous that out of a lottery that was meant to be for sport only 4.5p out of every pound spent by the man in the street goes to sport.

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  Shame on the Government.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  The position is absolutely ridiculous. As a sportsman, I feel that the Irish sporting fraternity have been completely let down. Surely from such a bonanza it should have been possible to provide a top-class national stadium with a 50 metre swimming pool for some £10 million to £20 million, in the late eighties. The Government wasted £1.37 million carrying out a feasibility study and on the preparation of development briefs for the site purchased at the dock site. That money could have gone some of the way towards providing a 50 metre swimming pool. The £1.37 million could now be regarded as having been wasted, which is disgraceful. Account should also be taken of the money that has been spent on purchasing that land. What will the Government now do with the land, upon which more than £6 million was invested?

The consequences of all the inaction and the misleading tactics used by the Government is that Ireland is the only country in Europe not to have a national indoor stadium and a 50 metre swimming pool. We have to send our swimming athletes to train in 50 metre swimming pools and on athletic tracks in the United States and other countries. It is estimated that our Olympic council spend 60 per cent of their grant on air fares for travel out of the country to avail of training, coaching and competition. That is necessary because Ireland does not have basic sporting facilities such as a 50 metre swimming pool, an indoor complex or a decent outdoor track. Another problem is that it is practically impossible for Ireland to bid to hold major international championships such as European championships or world championships [863] because of a lack of basic facilities. The Olympic Council of Ireland are very fortunate that they have an agreement with the Italian Olympic Committee and the United States Olympic Committee whereby those committees take on our athletes for free training and coaching at various centres throughout their countries. We are dependent on the goodwill of those countries to provide services free to Irish athletes, but that cannot go on for ever.

Ireland must now rank among the Third World countries when it comes to funding Olympic sports. Indeed, many African countries spend more on the preparation of their Olympic athletes than we do. The grant from the Department of Education to the Olympic Council of Ireland has not increased since 1988, the year of the Seoul Olympics. The grant in 1988 was £500,000; in 1989 it was reduced to £450,000; in 1990 it was £475,000; in 1991 it was just over £500,000; in 1992, £450,000. This year the Olympic Council of Ireland were given a special £250,000 grant, which has been given for the past two Olympic Games, in order to help in the preparation of the Olympic team. That money is usually given in the pre-Olympic year and not in the year of the Olympic Games because, as we all know, the important year for preparation is the pre-Olympic year.

I should like to acknowledge on behalf of those who are interested in the Olympic Games that because of pressure put on the Minister for Finance the grant was restored this year. It makes no sense that the money could not be made available last year when it was made available this year. Athletes had only about four months in which to benefit from that allocation.

When one realises that the grant of approximately £500,000 has to be divided among the 24 federations affiliated to the Olympic Council of Ireland it is obvious that the amount is derisory. Averaged out, it is worth around £20,000 to each federation. It is very difficult to prepare Olympic athletes and to expect them to [864] perform well and win on such very small resources. When one considers that the combined membership of those federations is almost 500,000 and that they share a grant of £500,000, one recognises just how meaningless the allocation is. A measure of the way in which we treat our Olympic hopefuls is provided by a comparison of the funding given by other countries to their athletes.

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  They would have qualified if they got the money last year.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Luxembourg, which has a population much smaller than that of Ireland, at about 280,000, provides its Olympic council with £1 million a year to prepare athletes. Norway, which has a population of approximately six million, provides a grant of £8 million for the preparation of their Olympic team. That support is indeed proving very fruitful because at the recent Winter Olympics in Albertville in France that country won eight gold medals. The Olympic committees in other EC countries, such as Italy and Denmark, get the majority of the proceeds earned from the football pools. Financial support for sport in Germany and for the German Olympic team has increased substantially in the past four years. In France and Germany if an athlete shows special ability he or she is drafted into the civil service sports department and, in most cases, is allowed to train full time.

The results of allowing athletes to train full time can be seen in the progress of an athlete such as Wayne McCullagh, the boxer who has probably the best chance of winning a gold medal in Barcelona. When Wayne won a gold medal for Northern Ireland in the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand, the New Zealand Olympic Committee offered him a substantial incentive to relocate in New Zealand, together with his family and his father, who is his coach, if he would box for that country at Barcelona. It was lucky for Ireland that he was reluctant to do so and also that the Irish Olympic Council, in order to keep him in Ireland, organised a sponsor so that he could [865] devote himself in the past three years to full-time training. That is the only way forward.

We should offer similar opportunities to all of our Olympic hopefuls. The successes of Séan Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Irish soccer team in recent years have shown that international sporting success brings many benefits to a country. The most immediate and obvious benefits are that success boosts national pride and morale, raises the profile of a country and enhances its image worldwide. Because its profile is raised in this way sporting success also brings considerable direct economic benefits in the form of increased tourism. I have met several people involved in tourism in Kerry and other parts of the country and they have assured me that the behaviour of Irish supporters at the European and World Championships in Germany and Italy definitely led to a tourist boost for this country. The appearance of Roche and Kelly, who are regularly on European television, is also a great boost for our national morale. If we had more Roches, Kellys and Delaneys there would be a major economic benefit to our country as people of that calibre would be ambassadors for us. When one considers the amount of money we spend in other types of promotion and on sending others abroad to promote this country, it is obvious that we could justify a far larger contribution towards the preparation of our international sportsmen and sportswomen to do this kind of work for us through the medium of sport.

The value of successful international sportsmen and sportswomen as role models for a wide range of people should not be underestimated. This is reflected in the spectacular growth of soccer and cycling in this country. The Federation of Irish Cyclists reported a 50 per cent increase in cycling club membership in the year following Stephen Roche's win of the Tour de France. This heightened interest in sport leads to a very important, indirect benefit to international sporting success, i.e. the promotion of higher levels of fitness and health among the population at large. In the Wimbledon [866] fortnight and when the World Cup competition is on television there is an increased interest in these sports. The same applies to championship time in gaelic football and hurling. Young people follow their role models in this regard which can only benefit their health and fitness. It is very encouraging to see the numbers of people cycling and I am convinced it is because of the success of Kelly and Roche.

I appeal to the Minister — it is not too late — to make a grant of at least £2,000 to each Irish athlete who qualified for Barcelona; 50 have qualified to date and three more are expected to qualify. This sum, although it may appear small, would be a major boost to many of our athletes and would assist them in their final preparations.

I should now like to refer to funding for the 1992-96 Olympic cycle. The Olympic Council of Ireland made a submission to the Government in 1989, they even arranged for the President of the International Olympic Committee, President Samaranch, to come to Dublin to meet the then Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, to support their case for funding. However, there was no response then, nor has there been one since, from the Government. The Olympic Council of Ireland in their submission requested that the Government, as their contribution to promoting the development of sport in Ireland, to help Irish sportsmen and sportswomen to achieve their full potential and to arrest the decline in Irish international success, commit an average of £1.75 million per annum for each Olympic four year cycle. It is critical for the Olympic Council of Ireland to know the funding for each year for the next four years so that they can make a commitment to an élite group of athletes and back them fully in their preparations. I am convinced that if we put an élite group of athletes through an extensive coaching and training programme over the four year period before the next Olympic in Atlanta in 1996 we would win gold medals. I am confident that, given greater financial resources, the level of Irish international sporting achievements can be increased; otherwise [867] our sportsmen and sportswomen will not achieve their international potential which means that this country will continue to forego the manifold benefits to be derived from international success.

The Olympic Council of Ireland would not survive except for sponsorship. The Irish Olympic Team going to Barcelona in four weeks' time would not be clothed and fitted out properly except for sponsorship, which is a sad reflection on this country. I appeal to the Government to come to an immediate decision regarding future funding for our Olympic team. We must not remain the Cinderella of Europe. There is a great wealth of potential sporting talent in this country but the Government must provide the financial resources needed to ensure its development. The first people to jump on the bandwagon if we win a gold medal in Europe will be the politicians; it brings me back to the time the Irish soccer team returned after playing in the European Championship and the World Cup. It was a disgrace to see the platform dominated that night by politicians from several different parties. Some people — but not all — were entitled to be present; in this country politicians are very quick to jump on the bandwagon when there is a successful outcome but they are very slow to give the necessary financial support to sport. When Gary O'Toole returned from Europe having won a silver medal in the European Championships he was met at the airport by the Minister's predecessor, Deputy Frank Fahey, who told Mr. O'Toole that a swimming pool would be provided in time for the Barcelona Games. He pledged that Ireland would have a 50 meter pool in time to train for the Barcelona Olympics.

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  He did not say that that pool would be provided in his own constituency.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  It was never provided because we do not have an Olympic pool.

[868] I am glad that the Minister for Defence is present——

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  The national selector.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  He is a man for whom I have great respect. However, I should like to refer to the case of Gina Galligan. As I said, I have great respect for the Minister, we are the only two all Ireland medal holders in this House. I would be the first to accept that Gina Galligan is a swimmer with great potential and I feel that she will make it to the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. Last year she became the first competitor to qualify for the final of a European junior championship event where she finished fifth with a time of one minute, 13.53 seconds for the 100 meter breast stroke, a new Irish record. More recently she finished third in an international event in France with a time of one minute, 11.80 seconds, another new Irish record. However — this is very important — the time set by the Irish Amateur Swimming Association was one minute, 11.43 seconds for the ladies' 100 metre breast stroke last year on the understanding that only those who reached that time would be nominated. The Irish Olympic Council had no option but to leave her out.

Other athletes, such as Christine Kennedy, the marathon runner, who has represented Ireland at every level except the Olympics and Marion Madine, must also feel justifiably disappointed. Christine missed the marathon time by just five seconds while Marian Madine made the time set for qualification. However the race in which she made that time had no official status. I believe the Tánaiste had no grounds on which to approach the Irish Olympic Council to try, according to press reports, and I have numerous reports in front of me, to influence their decision on the composition of the swimming team for Barcelona.

Mr. Wilson: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  Not so.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  I should add that Article 31.5 of the Olympic Charter states that the National Olympic Councils [869] shall preserve their autonomy and resist all pressures of any kind, including those of a political, religious or economic nature, that may prevent them from complying with the Olympic Charter. I should say to the Tánaiste that what the Irish Olympic Council and sport generally need is financial support to ensure that proper coaching and training facilities and back-up services are provided without intervention from politicians in relation to team selection.

The Tánaiste will have an opportunity to reply to the various allegations that have been made but they must have been very serious because never before in the history of the State has an official of the Irish Olympic Council made such an allegation. When one considers that a complaint has been made to the International Olympic Council it must be very serious. As my party's spokesperson on sport, I can only presume that the Tánaiste exerted heavy pressure on that official to try to ensure that Gina Galligan was selected.

Mr. Wilson: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  Not guilty.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  The Tánaiste will have an opportunity to reply. It was unfair to put the Irish Olympic Council under such pressure. In addition, it must have been a source of great embarrassment for Gina Galligan. Our young athletes deserve better and should not be embarrassed. As I said, the newspaper reports must have been the source of embarrassment and discouragement for that young girl who has great potential and who still trains and coaches young people. It is the last thing they need at this time. What they need is encouragement and not political interference or shenanigans.

The Government should have made better use of the resources that have been available to them from the national lottery during the past five years. They have let the sporting fraternity down. I have no doubt that if they had provided a 50 metre swimming pool Gina Galligan would have qualified at this stage. The ultimate insult was to try to influence the decision and have this girl selected.

[870]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I call Deputy Seán Barrett. He will conclude his address at 7.44 p.m. We lost four minutes durings the last vote.

Mr. S. Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  I support the motion. As a former Minister with responsibility for sport I wish the present incumbent every success in his new position. My tenure in office was probably one of the most enjoyable periods of my political career and I sincerely hope that the Minister of State, Deputy Aylward, will get the same enjoyment from it. I should say however that what has been happening since 1987 in the area of sport, having regard to the development of the national lottery, is nothing short of a scandal. The funds from that source have literally been hijacked.

The national lottery dates back to the time Mr. Donal Creed was Minister with responsibility for sport. It was he who put forward the idea that we should have a national lottery to raise funds for sport. Following his departure it fell to me to introduce the lottery. It was the intention that the funds would be used solely for sport, and no one should be fooled into thinking that that was not the case. Needless to say, once the money was made available everyone wanted to put their hand into the till. The Irish people were asked to contribute on a voluntary basis to a national lottery so that substantial sums of money would be available for the development of sport and recreational facilities.

My colleague, Deputy Deenihan, has outlined the benefits to be gained in having top class athletes — unpaid ambassadors — competing abroad wearing the Irish vest. They do so mainly in their spare time using their own money. However, they do occasionally receive some assistance from Government Departments but as I said, basically they are unpaid ambassadors. As Deputy Deenihan rightly said, when they are successful all of us are ready to jump on the bandwagon and share their success but nobody wants to know them when they have to put in many long hours of training.

[871] What has happened in relation to the Irish Olympic Council is nothing short of a scandal either. In 1984, after the Los Angeles Olympic Games, we decided during one period in Government that a four year plan should be drawn up for the Seoul Olympic Games. In 1985, we gave the Irish Olympic Council a sum of £240,000 to prepare a team for those games. The following year provided a further sum of £275,000. Therefore in the space of two years over £500,000 was provided by the then Fine Gael-Labour Coalition Government to the Irish Olympic Council to prepare our athletes for the 1988 Olympic Games. Unfortunately, we left office in 1987 and the whole thing fell flat on its face. Not alone have this Government and their predecessors, the Fianna Fáil Government in 1987, hijacked the national lottery, they have set sport back to the early sixties and seventies position.

In 1986, I included a provision in the Finance Act to allow individuals give gifts to Cospóir for the development of sport and to offset these gifts against their individual or corporate tax. That was a good idea. The provision was introduced to encourage individuals and companies to invest in sport and claim the expense against their tax in the same way that people in the Arts area can claim against their tax. What has happened to this provision? I have not read anything about it and no one seems to be promoting it. I am aware that the Department of Finance were not too pleased about it but the Government decided, and rightly, that it should be included in the Finance Act but why is it not being promoted? Therefore not alone is there no Government investment in sport, the national lottery funds have been hijacked and the provision in the Finance Act is not being promoted, yet we want our athletes to compete at the top level and represent this country abroad at international events, including the Olympic Games, against the might of other European countries, the United States, Australia and other well known sporting countries.

Let us compare the cost of sending an [872] athlete to the Olympic Games with the sums of money we give small clubs the length and breadth of this country, many of whose members look after young children in under-privileged areas seven days a week, selling raffle tickets and so on to keep the clubs in existence, or let us compare what we are spending on sport per head of the population with the cost of maintaining one child, who consistently offends, in Trinity House. It costs £65,000 per annum to keep one youth in Trinity House while it costs £30,000 per annum to keep someone in Mountjoy. Yet we have taken the national lottery funds — introduced and meant for sport and recreation — hived them off, here there and everywhere, with political favours being handed out to golf clubs and to other areas for which it was never intended. We must remember it is not Government money. It is comprised of individual donations to sport and recreation. It was never intended to be the business of Government to use those funds for other needs. Those funds should be passed directly from the national lottery to a sports council established on a statutory basis to administer the proportion of national lottery funds allocated for sport and recreation. Indeed their administration should not be the responsibility of any Government Department; it has nothing to do with Government; it is not taxation but a matter of individuals contributing voluntarily to the national lottery.

Let us cease talking about the problems of vandalism, unemployment and so on. The Government should cop on to themselves and change tack in relation to the national lottery. Even if the figure of 55 per cent, agreed in 1986, is reduced to 40 per cent, 30 per cent, or whatever may be the figure decided, that money should be given to the people who need it for the promotion of sport and recreation. Some of it should be given to local authorities and vocational education committees to assist small clubs nationwide where people give their time voluntarily to cater for young boys and girls without any outside help.

For example one club in my area has [873] 21 teams, that in an area where unemployment is between 75 and 80 per cent. The annual running costs of that club amount to approximately £14,000. Last year, through various means, they managed to raise a sum of £11,000 and are now £3,000 in debt. One should remember the effort that must be put into running a club of young people with 21 teams, in the provision of transport, footballs, training, gear, in an area in which, whenever a function is organised, committee members must collect £1 a week to make up the £5 for a ticket.

Millions of pounds are being spent on national lottery tickets with no significant amount being invested in sport, recreation or in helping young people, keeping them occupied rather than resorting to crime. We pay £65,000 per child in Trinity House and £600 weekly to keep somebody in Mountjoy Prison, yet we cannot afford to give a small grant to clubs or athletes to prepare themselves for the Olympics. These entrants are cheap ambassadors for this country.

I support my colleague, Deputy Deenihan, in his efforts to bring pressure on this Government to do something in the sporting area. The Olympic Games are in the offing. Olympic athletes cannot be appropriately encouraged or prepared by simply giving them a grant in the year in which the Olympic Games take place. There must be a four-year programme, guaranteeing the Olympic Council that, over those four years, they will receive X amount of money to prepare athletes, allow them compete abroad, to allow them train properly, to invest funds in regional facilities, so that people will be encouraged to engage in such sporting events. There is no point in giving a few pounds to the Olympic Council and expecting them to perform miracles at the eleventh hour. There must be an agreed figure — as there was in 1985 and 1986 — spread over a four-year period. The record will show that the figures I have quoted here this evening are accurate — £240,000 in 1985 and £275,000 in 1986. Those were two years of the four-year plan and the relevant amounts given to [874] the Olympic Council while we were in Government.

I urge the Tánaiste, a member of the Cabinet — I know how difficult it can be for a Minister with responsibility for sport who is not around the Cabinet table to fight his or her corner — who has an interest in sport to use his best endeavours to that end. The problem with which he became involved has been dealt with. I sincerely hope all of us will have learned a lesson from that. I appeal to the Government, through the Tánaiste, to re-think their attitude to the national lottery, to commit a percentage of the takings to sport and recreation. The Minister may have his ideas as to how they should be distributed. I have made some positive proposals — a four-year funding plan for the Olympic Council, and the establishment of a statutory sports body to properly administer those funds for sport and recreational purposes without any political interference. The last thing sports people want is politicians interfering in sport. Let us not forget the many small clubs nationwide in need of help.

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Aylward): Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam Aylward  I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

“welcomes the level of funding provided by the Government to the Olympic Council of Ireland during the current Olympic cycle and notes the assistance, both financial and through the provision of facilities, being made available to assist Ireland's outstanding sportspersons”.

I am very pleased to have this opportunity of speaking on this motion on the funding for the Olympic Council of Ireland. In response to the points made by Deputy Deenihan, I want to put before the House the accurate position regarding the level of funding for the Olympic Council, which has been the subject of severe and unfair criticism for quite some time.

At the outset, let me state that both [875] myself and my Department have a very good relationship with the Olympic Council of Ireland. Since my appointment as Minister of State at the Department of Education with responsibility for Sport, in February last, I have met the Olympic Council of Ireland on two occasions to discuss a wide range of issues, including the level of Government funding for the council. It is my intention to develop further the already excellent working arrangements which exist between the Olympic Council and my Department.

Government policy on sport is based on the following premises: first, it is considered that participation in sporting and active leisure pursuits promotes good health and enhances the quality of life to the benefit of the individual and the community; second, it has an educational role in contributing to the development of leadership and social skills in individuals. Among the good influences of involvement in sport and leisure activities are a feeling of well being, a means of occuping spare time, in addition to providing skills, motivation and self-confidence to seek opportunities for both gainful employment and voluntary service; third, it has a capacity to promote increased economic activity both within the community and from increased tourism; and fourth, meritorious performances by Irish sportspersons in international arenas increase the country's prestige and image among the community of nations, and participation in sport can act as an antidote to vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

Sport policy is aimed at increasing these benefits by raising standards of performance generally and in particular, the standards of our elite sportspersons at international level and by increasing participation in sport and leisure activities.

The aims of policy in the elite sport area are to allow the full development of talent, to provide a sporting spectacle for the public, to allow countries to communicate through the vehicle of elite sport, to demonstrate the strength of sport as a way of life, to promote a base [876] for elite sport, to provide a motivation for healthy objectives, to allow talent to develop and to occupy young people in play activity with health and ethical objectives.

Ireland has a very proud tradition in the world of elite international sport. Immediately, we think of the successes of the Irish soccer team, of Seán Kelly and Stephen Roche, the achievements of our professional and amateur golfers and the performances of our athletes, rowers and canoeists. In the Olympic field, although our level of success in recent Olympiads has been low we have won 14 Olympic medals. These successes have been hard earned through the dedication of the individuals involved and the assistance and support provided by the respective sporting organisations which are supported by the Government.

In pursuance of the policy on elite sport, grants are paid annually to the national governing bodies of sport from the proceeds of the national lottery for expenditure in the following areas: assistance for the employment of development officers by six organisations; assistance to meet the cost of administrators and coaches by 30 governing bodies; grants to purchase specialist equipment; grants to meet costs associated with exchange schemes with France, Germany and Italy and grants to meet the costs of attending or hosting major international events.

In 1989 the House of Sport was established in Walkinstown. It acts as a headquarters for 12 governing bodies of sport and has been equipped with modern office equipment and modern technology. In 1992 the level of funding for these programmes will be in excess of £2.9 million.

In the case of the Olympic Council of Ireland, my Department provide an annual grant to the council to assist with meeting the costs of the international programme of the 24 sporting organisations which are affiliated to the Olympic Council and to help defray the costs of other initiatives undertaken by the Olympic Council which are aimed at increasing standards. I should add that each of these organisations is also in [877] receipt of funding from my Department under the general grants scheme for national governing bodies of sport.

To give a full picture of the level of funding allocated specifically for the Olympic Council of Ireland, I wish to put the following facts before the House. In the four year Olympic cycle from 1985 to 1988 the total amount of funding awarded to the Olympic Council of Ireland for the preparation and training of athletes for the Seoul Olympics was £1,390,000.

In the current four year Olympic cycle, from 1989 to 1992, the level of funding has increased by 62.5 per cent to £2,222,000. The individual annual allocations are as follows, and I think I should refer back to the period referred to by Deputy Barrett when the then Coalition Government were in office from 1983 to 1986: in 1983 the figure allocated was £125,000; in 1984, £240,000; in 1985, £240,000 and in 1986, £275,000. The Government changed in 1987 and the figure was increased from £275,000 to £375,000. In 1988 the figure was £500,000; in 1989, £450,000; in 1990, £505,000; in 1991, £567,000 and in 1992, £700,000.

I have referred to 1988 which was Olympic year, when a grant of £500,000 was allocated by my Department, whereas in this Olympic year a grant of £700,000 has been allocated and already paid. This allocation is an increase of 23 per cent on the 1991 allocation of £567,000. I am certain that all fair-minded sports people will agree that there have been substantial increases in the level of funding being made available to the OCI. I must state, however, the expression of gratitude from spokespersons of the Olympic Council of Ireland has been muted. Indeed, the public could be forgiven for being misled as regards the true position of Government funding levels. Equally, I am sure that many people would find it strange that the Olympic Council should state quite categorically that no representative of the Government would be welcome at a function to welcome home any successful Olympic sportsperson.

One of the conditions governing my

[878] Department's scheme of assistance for sporting organisations is a requirement that organisations should raise up to 50 per cent of the annual income through fund-raising and sponsorship. While I have not been provided with any information in relation to the sponsorship or other income of the Olympic Council, I am confident that, particularly in Olympic year, there are opportunities for the attraction of substantial sponsorship from non-governmental sources.

We all are aware of the many commercial sponsorship arrangements which are operating at the moment in support of the Olympic Council's preparation for the games. I understand that there are up to 11 companies involved in such sponsorship which must be yielding generous amounts of money. I referred earlier to the allocation of £700,000 to the OCI for 1992 by the Government. In a recent submission from the Olympic Council it was stated that the council expected to expend £900,000 on the programmes for the Olympics. I venture to state that it should not be too difficult to meet the balance of £200,000 through sponsorship and other income. Indeed, it would hardly be considered desirable for an independent autonomous body like the OCI, who publicly state their independence from the Government, to be in a position where the Government were the sole provider of funding for their operation and I am sure that the OCI would not wish this is to be the situation.

In addition to the grants to the national sporting organisations and the OCI my Department are also involved in funding a number of other programmes which have a direct benefit for our Olympic team. In the four years since the last Olympic Games in Seoul, grants in excess of £300,000 have been paid out to individual athletes who are affiliated to the Olympic sports. Under the scheme grants are awarded to individual sports persons to enable them to undertake training and competition at the highest level and to compete with distinction at international events and to assist outstanding junior sports persons who have achieved a standard of national significance in their particular [879] sport to undertake specialised training and compete in international competitions. Let me say that athletes are training full time with assistance from the outstanding sports persons' grant scheme. Garry O'Toole, Liam Wylie, Michael Corcoran and Niall O'Toole are examples. Wayne McCullagh has benefited substantially also from the outstanding sports person's grant scheme.

These grants, which range from £1,000 to £5,000 per individual sports person per annum, are of tremendous benefit to the individual sports persons who have benefited and in fact a number of them have taken the trouble to write to my Department outlining the benefits of the scheme.

In April of this year I opened the national coaching and training centre at the University of Limerick which has as it twin aims the introduction of a coach education programme and the provision of facilities, both of a physical and physiological nature, to enable our top sports persons to train in the most modern facilities with an excellent medical back-up. This facility, which is being used extensively by elite sports persons, will play a major role in the preparation of our athletes for international competitions. In particular, I am very pleased that Bord Lúthchleas na h-Éireann have decided to use this excellent centre for some of their pre-Olympic training and I would encourage other sporting organisations to do likewise.

Throughout the country there have been many new facilities provided which, while they cater for the local needs, also provide a good training facility for the elite sports persons. For example, in the past four year many new facilities have been provided. The type of facility I am referring to includes athletic facilities at Waterford, Limerick, Dundalk, Kilkenny, Donegal and Dublin together with the provision of the country's first indoor synthetic athletic facility at Nenagh. Further funds are being provided for the provision and upgrading of athletic tracks at Galway, Tullamore, Monaghan and Santry Stadium, Dublin.

[880] Work can start on all of these projects in 1992 provided that the technical difficulties which have delayed them can be overcome. This major expansion of our stock of athletic facilities I am sure will provide a basis for the continued growth and enhanced performance of athletics in the country. A total of £5.25 million has been provided for the development of athletic facilities throughout the country.

In addition to funds being provided to local communities for the provision of multi-purpose sports halls, funds have also been provided to national governing bodies of sport for the improvement of their specialist facilities. These include the boxing stadium, Dublin, badminton centre, Baldoyle and the national basketball centre, Tallaght, which is currently under construction. It is my intention to continue to provide and improve the specialist sport facilities for our national governing bodies of sport. Swimming pools are being planned or improved at Sligo, Cork, Tralee and Carrick-on-Suir at a cost of £3.55 million.

Although great strides have been made in recent years in the provision of funding for the sporting organisations and in the provision of a range of sporting facilities much remains to be done.

Deputy Deenihan in his opening remarks made great efforts to make political capital out of the decision of the Government not to proceed with the proposed national sports centre at the Custom House Docks site. That has been the subject of parliamentary questions tabled by Deputy Deenihan on many occasions. Circumstances have changed in a number of relevant ways since the feasibility study, on which this project was based, was carried out. The changed circumstances include, (a) the development of conference facilities at a number of locations throughout the city; (b) the emergence of the Point Depot with a seating capacity for 9,000 persons as a pop concert venue; (c) the provision of a new badminton centre at Baldoyle under the regional programme; (d) the refurbishment of the National Boxing Stadium which has a 2,000 seating capacity; (e) [881] the inclusion of a national basketball stadium in Tymon, Tallaght, in the regional programme, with a capacity for 3,500 persons, catering for all major basketball events and providing facilities for other games such as volleyball, badminton and gymnastics — work commenced on this project with a completion date of Deccember 1992 — and (f) the development of the House of Sport facility in Walkinstown, to which I referred, which acts as a headquarters for 13 national sporting organisations.

I ask Deputy Deenihan to tell the House the major sporting events which are lost to Ireland because the project he referred to will not now go ahead. The Government decided that the centre would not go ahead as envisaged at that time. This is not to suggest that the proposal cannot be reactivated at a future date. When I replied to questions on this issue I was consistent in what I said.

Deputy Seán Barrett referred to the moneys available for sport. I agree that any Member who has been involved in sport would say that there is never enough money available for sport. However, we must compare like with like. At the time the previous Government took the decision that 55 per cent of the proceeds from the national lottery should go to sport the estimated proceeds from the national lottery was approximately £10 million. On this basis the 55 per cent proceeds for sport would represent £5.5 million. The provision made by my Department in 1992 for sport is £5.35 million for current expenditure and an additional £4.5 million for capital expenditure, a total of £9.89 million.

I admit that one of the major deficiencies is the absence of a 50 metre swimming pool complex which in addition to providing a modern facility to host international competitions would also enable our international swimmers to train at home. I am perfectly committed to the provision of such a facility and I am at present considering a number of proposals for its provision. In an effort to alleviate the disadvantage of the elite swimmers having to travel abroad for 50 metre pool training my Depart [882] ment have provided special grants to the Irish Amateur Swimming Association to help defray the costs of attendance at such facilities abroad. I realise that the association are very anxious that progress be made on this facility and I would like to assure them I am confident that in the not too distant future it will no longer be necessary for Irish swimmers to travel abroad for 50 metre pool training. At this point I wish to compliment the swimmers who are ranked highly in the world rankings on their achievements which have been attained despite the absence of a 50 metre pool in Ireland.

On an occasion such as this I must state that I have been concerned with the uneasy relationships which exists between the Olympic Council of Ireland and some of their affiliated sporting organisation members at present. I urge all those involved in the controversy to remember that it is not the Olympic Council of Ireland, the national governing bodies of sport or the Government who are important but rather the sportspersons who have made many sacrifices to pursue their very severe training and competition schedules over the years to attain the distinction of representing their country at the highest international level.

The Irish people expect the controlling interests within the Olympic Council of Ireland and the individual sports to continue to show maturity and leadership in their deliberations and to act in a fair and just manner to provide unified support for our Olympic hopefuls and to ensure that public controversy does not damage the sportsperson in his or her preparation for the games. We would be better off without much of the recent publicity in this respect.

I am saddened at the recent controversy between the Tánaiste and the Olympic Council of Ireland. I am also disappointed that Deputy Deenihan, an outstanding sportsperson, like the Tánaiste, found it necessary to criticise the Tánaiste tonight. It is the right of a member of the Government or any Member of the Oireachtas to make an inquiry or representations in relation to the composition of the team for the [883] Olympics. The manner in which the OCI reacted to the inquiry from the Tánaiste, and the public exposure of what was a private approach to the OCI on a sensitive issue, is to be frowned upon. It is ironic that a body, who are prepared to use the political lobby very extensively, when it is advantageous to do so, would react in such a fashion to a telephone call from a member of the Government.

I wish to state categorically that the Government do not want to be involved in the selection of the Olympic team, but surely they have the right to make inquiries or representations in relation to matters which are of such public interest. This right has been accepted by successive Governments.

On the question of funding for the Olympic Council of Ireland for the forthcoming Olympic cycle leading up to the Games in Atlanta, it is my intention to meet with the OCI following the Barcelona Games to review the performance of the Irish team and to look ahead and examine the prospects for 1996.

When the OCI have prepared a submission which clearly identifies their intentions and requirements for each of the sports involved, which demonstrates a coherent and planned approach in the build-up to Atlanta in 1996, citing clearly the objectives to be achieved during the four-year cycle, the indicators of development that can be expected and the financial input required both from the Government and private sources, the question of funding for the council can then be considered. I stress that the Government will be earnestly endeavouring to provide significant support to the OCI having regard to the available finances at the time.

In conclusion, I wish every member of the Irish Olympic team every success in their quest for success at this summer's Olympic Games. The Irish, who are a great sporting nation, love to see sportspersons in the green singlets compete with distinction in what is the greatest sporting festival in the world. Whether they win gold, silver or bronze the fact [884] that they have reached the high standards set for qualification for the Olympics is a very significant achievement and we all support them in their endeavours. I compliment and thank the Olympic Council of Ireland, and the individual governing bodies of sport, on their dedication and commitment to the development of sport in Ireland.

The information which I have provided tonight shows that the Government are committed to the provision of funds to the Olympic Council of Ireland and the individual sporting organisations to assist them with their efforts to ensure that the disadvantages under which some of sportspersons compete are being reduced quickly. I know that there are other initiatives we need to take but I hold the view that substantial progress has been made in recent times. I assure the House that it is my intention to further that aim while I am in office. I recommend to the House the Government's amendment.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  The Labour Party support the Fine Gael motion. I compliment Deputy Deenihan on bringing this motion before the House for discussion. The question of sport, and the provision of adequate resources for it, are burning issues among Irish sportspersons at present. I say this not only as spokesperson on sport for the Labour Party but also as a person who has been involved in sport and youth work for many years.

I appreciate the need that exists at present. With only four weeks to the 1992 Olympics the timing of this motion has to be questioned. Taking into account the restrictive timescale, any practical assistance coming from the Government will be of limited benefit for the training programme of the 52 people already nominated for the Olympics. Notwithstanding that, we look forward to additional funding, particularly as training for the Olympics is a long term commitment in terms of time and funds. Following the Olympic Games the Minister should devise a programme for the next four years.

Ireland has a proud sporting tradition. Over the years Irish competitors have [885] won 14 Olympic medals. In addition, an Irishman, Lord Killanin, has held with distinction the position of President of the International Olympics Committee for more than eight years. This is a great honour not only for himself and his family but for Ireland as a whole. I can still remember listening on a crackling radio to the 15,000 metres final for men in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games when a 21 year-old Irishman Ronnie Delaney, who was on a scholarship to America at the time, won the premier Olympic event.

Mr. Wilson: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  He was lucky to get the nomination.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  That same year, Irish athletes won five medals but since then Irish Olympic successes have declined somewhat. I remember Ronnie Delaney after his success kneeling down on the track and blessing himself. The success that year was a great boost for Irish sport and for the Irish people. Thirty-six years ago certain commitments were given as there was a need to improve facilities for Irish sportsmen and women to enable them to prepare for the Olympic Games if they so wished. However, 36 years later, those commitments have still not been met. That indicates that there is no real commitment in this House to sport.

The Government have continued to ignore the plight of Irish sport and Irish athletes. Various interested bodies have provided the Government with the relevant information in regard to the needs and requirements of our Olympic team but most of them have received a negative response. Among the submissions was one made in 1989 by the Olympic Council of Ireland. They received nothing but lip service. I would ask the Minister whether he has read a report that is lying on his desk gathering dust.

There are 25 sports federations affiliated to the OCI. The combined membership of these organisations is nearly 500,000. In that context, I pose the question, how much finance have the OCI received from Government? In 1988, as the Minister has admitted, £500,000 was [886] provided by the Government; in 1989, £450,000; in 1990, £475,000; in 1991, £525,000 and this year, the year of the Olympics, £450,000 is being provided plus a special budget allocation of £250,000.

Mr. Aylward: Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam Aylward  I gave the information to the House that £700,000 has already been paid to the Olympic Council of Ireland this year by the Department.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I am sure Deputy Ryan has heard the Minister repeat the information he has given in that regard.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  It is very unfair for the Minister to interrupt anyone. He was not interrupted when he made very serious allegations, which I hope I will have an opportunity to answer. We had the courtesy to allow the Minister to speak and he should now allow Deputy Ryan to speak.

Mr. Aylward: Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam Aylward  Deputy Farrelly consistently interrupted.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  I am not disagreeing with the Minister but he had the opportunity of responding this evening. There are different ways of allocating funding to organisations. We are talking about the Olympic Council of Ireland and my figures are taken from information received from that body. I know that further finance is available but we are talking directly about preparation for the Olympics.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy Ryan will not be interrupted any more. He should address the Chair and make his contribution.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  There has always been a pre-Olympic year allocation of £250,000 but the Government failed to meet this commitment last year, resulting in a reduction of £75,000.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  That is right.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  This is an utter scandal and [887] it must be remedied. The allocation represents less than £1 per affiliated member of the OCI.

This is my first opportunity to congratulate Deputy Aylward on his promotion. I wish him the very best of luck in a difficult position. I would like to refer briefly — perhaps the Minister will think this a little unfair — to his first exclusive interview with The Sunday Press on 23 February. It was a very outgoing interview in which he made two particular references. The interviewer, Liam Hayes, stated that topping the list of needs in the Minister's eyes were extra funding for the Olympic Council and the building of a 50 metre swimming pool. The Minister stated:

In the meantime, we have to build a 50-metre swimming pool. We can't wait any longer for that. An international sized swimming pool is a must and we are getting down to do something about it immediately. It's also Olympic year and we can't forget that.

The Minister went on to say:

The Olympic Council received a special allocation of £250,000 in the budget but we still have to make the Olympics a special case. I do not know how much we can put on top of that figure at this stage but we will have to make it something substantial.

I think the Minister acknowledges that the allocation to the Olympic Council of Ireland is inadequate and this matter must be dealt with. I hope the Minister will see the merit of the case put forward by everybody in this House and that in summing up he will give a little hope to the 52 people who have been selected.

It is important when talking about the Olympic Council of Ireland to put on record the 25 bodies affiliated to them, many of whom could be classified as the minority sports groups. Many of them are finding it very difficult to continue, including the Irish Amateur Archery Association, Bord Lúthcleas na hÉireann, the Irish Basketball Association, the Badminton Union of Ireland, [888] the Irish Bobsleigh Association, the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, the Irish Canoe Union, the Irish Clay Pigeon Shooting Association, the Federation Irish Cyclists, the Equestrian Federation of Ireland, the Irish Amateur Fencing Federation, the Football Association of Ireland, the Amateur Gymnastics Association, the Irish Hockey Union for Men, the Irish Judo Association, the Irish Ladies Hockey Union, the Irish Amateur Rowing Union, the Irish Tabletennis Association, the Irish Amateur Weight-lifting Association, the Irish Amateur Wrestling Association, the Irish Yachting Association and the Irish Badminton Union. I recently met representatives of some 20 sports associations catering for what could be called minority sports. They were very angry that the Government were only paying lip service to sport. They said clearly that the national lottery is interfering with the ability of local clubs to run draws in order to get the type of finance required to allow these clubs and organisations to continue to exist. In County Dublin, for example, the most that such clubs could get from the local vocational education committee during the last four or five years was £100 per annum. Lottery funding which was originally intended for sport, recreation and youth has been hi-jacked to a great extent and they want something done about it.

The annual report for 1991 for the national lottery stated clearly that the transfer to the Exchequer for distribution in 1991 was £100,200,000. In 1991 sport got an allocation of £12,154,000. The total allocation for youth, recreation and sport was £29.5 million out of a total of £100 million which could be distributed from the Exchequer. In recent years Governments have disgracefully treated youth, sport and recreation in financial terms. The people involved in these areas are providing sporting and recreational facilities and are keeping young people out of trouble under the umbrella of the Olympic Council of Ireland. They are now clearly saying that enough is enough. The decision last year to defer building [889] a national sports stadium, including an Olympic-size pool and an indoor athletics track, reflected badly on the Government. A number of Minister, including Deputy Fahey, made commitments on this.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Several times.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  Deputy Haughey, as Taoiseach, gave a firm commitment in his last Ard Fheis address that the project would go ahead. Since 1987 the Government have made noises about the establishment of a number of regional sports centres and a national sports centre, but we are still awaiting development in these areas. The standard of sports facilities here is well below the European average. Ireland, as part of an integrated Europe, will compete with countries who have a long tradition of success at international level. Our standard in sport must correspond with the standard in member states. How can we hope to compete on an equal basis with our European partners, with the US, Australia and the African countries when this Government refuse to sponsor the building of this vital sports stadium? We must be able to compete on a comparable basis. The track record of the Government leaves a lot to be desired and this is being recognised by people involved in sport. The people who have given their time and energy in sporting areas feel that they are being taken for granted. More than 500,000 people are involved in sport. They should be able to make a political case for themselves. They should have put forward a legitimate case. I hope they will press all Governments in the future to ensure that the needs of sport are met.

In Ireland we have retained an amateur approach to sport. I do not disagree with that but there are disadvantages given the development of sport in other countries where professional policies have been adopted in relation to facilities, funding and training for sportsmen and women. An examination of the way in which sport is organised and funded in more successful countries bears out this contention. A fuller illustration of this can [890] be found in the success of the Irish on the professional front. I would mention the likes of Stephen Roche, Seán Kelly, Barry McGuigan and the Irish soccer team. Their success could not have been attained without professional assistance, back-up and training facilities which are so much a part of modern sport needs. While most countries recognise the importance of providing modern fully equipped sporting facilities, we are still lacking even basic facilities. We do not have an Olympic swimming pool, notwithstanding the commitments. We do not have a proper gymnastics centre nor do we have indoor training facilities for athletics. Neither do we have a single recognised centre for coaching. These matters were always on the agenda but unfortunately they were always pushed into the background. I hope that on the basis of this discussion we can bring them to the top of the agenda or as near the top as possible.

Debate adjourned.

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