Wednesday, 8 March 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
7. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation the arrangements, if any, which will be made to have a copy of a legal agreement between the State and a person (details supplied) placed in the Oireachtas Library in view of his statement in Dáil Éireann on 9 February 2000; and the reason this agreement has not to date been lodged. [6933/00]
18. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation if he has satisfied himself that the Government's proposals for a new national stadium are appropriate considering Ireland's obligations in relation to competition under EU law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7014/00]
22. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation if he will make a statement on his meeting with leaders of sporting organisations on 26 January 2000 to discuss the feasibility study of a national stadium. [2492/00]
26. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation the progress, if any, made to date with regard to the Government's plans for a national stadium; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [ 7013/00]
31. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 1 of 13 October 1999, he has received the report of the consultants to the national stadium steering committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2204/00]
35. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation the number of projects before his Department by way of application for grant aid for sporting, recreational and amenity facilities from the proceeds of the national lottery or other sources; the combined value or cost of these proposals; his Department's ability or intention to meet these in 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7045/00]
37. Proinsias De Rossa asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation if it is intended to provide a 50 metre swimming pool in conjunction with the proposed national stadium and sports campus; the additional cost involved in providing this pool; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7015/00]
In response to parliamentary questions on 3 February and during the special debate on 9 February I outlined the Government's decision to proceed with plans to build a campus of sporting excellence, including an 80,000 all seated national stadium to be known as Sports Campus Ireland. This decision was informed by the feasibility study conducted by the consultants to the stadium steering committee and the committee's recommendations.
Having been identified by the consultants and recommended by the steering committee the site at Abbotstown in west Dublin was accepted by the Government as the optimum location for the proposed sports campus and stadium. The question of affordable housing is a matter for the Minister for the Environment and Local Government and does not arise in the context of the national stadium.
The feasibility study and the committee's recommendations are available in the Oireachtas Library as is the legal document referred to by Deputy Allen. This latter document, a letter of assignation between Pictet and Cie, Geneva, and the Department of the Taoiseach, gives effect to the private donation of £50 million from Mr. J. P. McManus towards the financing and development of Sports Campus Ireland and Stadium Ireland.
A development company is to be established to take the project through the design and construction stage to which normal EU provisions and tendering arrangements will apply. This development company with the board of trustees in which  the asset will be vested are in the process of being established.
Ireland, despite being a nation of sports enthusiasts, does not have a stadium suitable for hosting all its field sports. The stadium proposed will be capable of accommodating a wide range of sports and entertainment events. The position regarding the provision of swimming facilities at Sports Campus Ireland is that the feasibility of developing an aquatic centre for the Special Olympics as part of the campus is to be considered by the development company for decision by the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance and me.
Regarding the meeting on 26 January referred to by Deputy Quinn this was a breakfast briefing hosted by the Taoiseach for representatives of the IRFU, GAA, FAI, OCI, National Community Games, Ireland Special Olympics, Athletic Association of Ireland and the Irish Sports Council. I also attended. All those present at the meeting welcomed the Government's decision to proceed with the development of Sports Campus Ireland and Stadium Ireland.
Mr. Allen: Why did the Taoiseach promise at the press conference on 26 January that he would place in the Oireachtas Library on that date a copy of the agreement between the State and the donor of the gift? Why did the Minister make a similar promise on 9 February? What was placed in the Oireachtas Library on 29 February was not the legal agreement between the State and the donor named by the Minister but a letter of assignation from the bankers, Pictet and Cie, Geneva, on behalf of an unknown client – there is no mention of a donor in the letter – confirming that 64 million euros would be paid to the Department of the Taoiseach. What was the reason for the long delay? Although the Taoiseach promised on 26 January that a copy of the agreement would be placed in the Oireachtas Library on that date—
Dr. McDaid: The letter of assignation has been placed in the Oireachtas Library. I understand there was delay in drawing up the letter between the Attorney General and the legal representatives of Mr. J. P. McManus. It is a legal document. I would like to think there is another secret admirer who is giving us £50 million to build a stadium. Who else could it possibly be? Santa Claus? It is a legal document drawn up by the  Attorney General and the legal representatives of Mr. J. P. McManus.
Dr. McDaid: I know it is from Mr. J. P. McManus. The Deputy's question is ridiculous. Does he think there is another admirer of this country out there? Perhaps Santa Claus suddenly put £50 million in the bank.
Mr. O'Shea: We read in the newspapers this morning about the objection of the Minister for Defence to Eircom Park because of its possible effect on Baldonnel. I seek a categorical assurance that a similar independent consultancy report will be compiled on the national stadium and its possible effect on Dublin Airport? Should the report be of a similar type will the Minister for Public Enterprise be as forthcoming in objecting to the new national stadium? There is another point which has been missed. It is stated in one of the appendices to the consultants' report on the national stadium that 15 stadiums world-wide were surveyed. It transpires—
Dr. McDaid: —which will be explained by the Minister at a meeting to the FAI. A feasibility  study has been conducted and to date objections have not been lodged against Stadium Ireland. This is a democracy—
Dr. McDaid: I did not answer the question properly. I read in the newspapers recently that the national stadium project would be in breach of EU competition law. That is another ridiculous assertion. Is it being said that a Government cannot build a national gallery, national library and national concert hall?
Dr. McDaid: No. I have said in the House previously that the culture of this country tends to change very slowly, too slowly for my liking from time to time, but I hope people of the calibre of Mr. J. P. McManus remain with us for a long time.
Mr. O'Shea: The Minister did not answer the second part of my question. Going on the consultants' report and nothing else, on average there was an overrun of 73.4% in respect of the 15 stadia surveyed. Would the Minister concede that in practical terms we are not talking about a stadium for £281 million plus £20 million but one which will cost well in excess of £0.5 billion?
 Can the Minister categorically assure the House no rights will accrue to the donor of the £50 million vis-à-vis the trust which is to be set up or the company which is suggested in the consultants' report?
On the cost of the stadia, I have also met people who have told me this is probably an overestimation of the cost. Many people would hold that opinion. The stadium at Cardiff cost approximately £60 million less than the proposed cost of Stadium Ireland.
There may be additional costs. The costs may be underestimated or overestimated, but we will go ahead with it because this country needs a national stadium. Of course the costs are important, but £40 billion is being spent in the context of the national development plan, which amounts to pay-back time for the people for the good policies of successive Governments over the past ten years, and they should not quibble over £280 million for a sports infrastructure.
Mr. Allen: The Minister should read what he has said. He is making no sense; he is incoherent. Will he agree there is a serious possibility that the estimated cost of £280 million will be greatly exceeded? Just 20 minutes ago he threw the cost of a 50 metre pool onto the bill and he has not taken that into consideration. What about the removal of staff from Abbotstown? What about the in-built price of the land which is being used? That has not been built into the overall sum. Does the Minister agree the cost is approaching £400 million and with the escalation of costs it will increase to £500 million? With 2,000 applications for funding from clubs, some of which do not have running water, this is a scandal. Does the Minister agree we should refer this huge capital project to a special committee of the Dáil where it could be examined in the same way the Wembley Stadium project in England was subjected to scrutiny by an all-party committee? In the interests of Ireland, the taxpayer and sports people, I ask that this should be given the critical analysis it deserves rather than the off the wall statements which we are hearing from the Minister.
Dr. McDaid: I assure the Deputy that all of the clubs which have been looked after in the past will continue to be looked after. I put more money into the development of local clubs and organisations in 1999 than the Deputy did from 1995 to 1997.
Mr. O'Shea: Has the Minister read the report of the House of Commons committee? If so, does he agree that some of the synopsis contained within it indicate that this is an overly ambitious project, based on the misgivings regarding a city the size of London with its huge population? In the context of his reply regarding the EU competition problems, the Minister spoke about the State not being allowed, if we were to follow this through, to build national galleries, museums, etc., but sport has become a highly competitive area and nowadays it is a commodity. I put it to him that there are commercial factors at play here, the situation is not as simplistic as he describes and there could be a serious problem in terms of competition law within the EU.
Dr. McDaid: No, I have not read the House of Commons report but I accept that, like any report, the Deputy can take whatever he wants out of it. The report, which we commissioned  from a high powered committee, came with the committee's ideas and suggestions—
Dr. McDaid: —and we acted accordingly on that report. Regarding EU competition law, that is pie in the sky. Every Government has a right to build its own national gallery, library, museum and stadium.
Dr. McDaid: I doubt the EU would suggest Ireland must play its matches in Brussels. This is just another matter which has been thrown into this area to confuse the issue. It has nothing to do with EU State aids.
Mr. Perry: I appeal to the Minister to consider Deputy Allen's suggestion of an all-party committee which would discuss the ramifications of this major development because we are now talking about expenditure of £400 million or £500 million.
Dr. McDaid: Therefore, the Deputy should not deny us and the people this small amount of money to build a national infrastructure. This is a sports loving nation. This is a small amount of money in the context of the national development plan.
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