Tuesday, 1 May 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
53. Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation the reasons his Department will not fund the World Road Cycling Championship proposed for Killarney, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12103/01]
Dr. McDaid: My Department does not have funds directly at its disposal for supporting projects of this nature. I understand, however, Bord Fáilte has received an application for sponsorship under the international sports tourism fund for the World Road Cycling Championship proposed to take place in Killarney in 2004.
An initial assessment and evaluation of the proposal has been made by Bord Fáilte and the sports tourism partnership advisory group. However, because of the significant level of financial support being sought by the promoters, the board of Bord Fáilte has decided that an independent cost benefit analysis of the proposal should be commissioned. I understand from Bord Fáilte that this analysis should be completed within the next three to four weeks and that a decision on the application will subsequently be taken by the board, taking into consideration any further advice from the advisory group.
Mr. Deenihan: Is the Minister aware that the cost benefit to Killarney, to County Kerry, and surrounding areas, will be in the region of £26 million? An expenditure of about £2 million would be a worthy investment in the region, bearing in mind the losses sustained by the tourism industry in Killarney as a result of foot and mouth disease, and the knock-on effects that will have for the rest of the year. The Minister should be only too glad to give something back to the area by providing necessary funding for this major event.
The Government has stated on a number of occasions that it wants to attract huge international sporting events. This is one of the reasons for building Stadium Ireland. This is an opportunity to improve the roads which does not involve great expense other than the provision of seed capital. It would be a major boost to the local economy and there would also be a very attractive pay-back to the taxpayer.
Dr. McDaid: This year I established a special  unit within Bord Fáilte for the purpose of attracting major international events, such as the World Road Cycling Championship, to Ireland on a multi-annual basis. That would mean that we would not have to pay out in any one year for an event. This event will take place in 2004. It fits perfectly into a scenario where the Government would commit a certain amount of funding each year in order to bring the event to Ireland. I agree with the Deputy that attracting large sporting international championships is what this is all about. Having the facilities to accommodate those in the future is also part of the Government's policy. This event will cost approximately £5 million. The promoters are looking for £2.7 million from the Government over the next few years. That is a substantial amount. The rest will be made up by Kerry County Council, commercial sponsorship and television broadcasting rights.
There is a problem in that we have to make a decision by October 2001. I have no problem in principle with trying to attract events. These are the types of events I want to attract. Unfortunately, however, in recent years cycling has not been exactly playing ball. I refer to the drugs situation, and the Deputy is aware of my view on drugs in sport. As it is my number one priority, I, therefore, have reservations regarding this event. I understand, however, the UCI, the international body with responsibility for cycling, has been doing its utmost to combat drugs in this sport. It has decided at long last to introduce a test for EPO. While that is to be welcomed, I was very disappointed that, in the first few days of the Tour de France last year, three of the cyclists tested positive for drugs. I will, therefore, keep the matter under review and monitor the situation, particularly with regard to the major cycling events taking place in Europe this year – the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia and so on – because the same cyclists would be coming to the world championship in Killarney, and if drugs are involved, it would not benefit this country. I will monitor the situation throughout the summer. I am aware that the UCI has taken steps to try to limit drug use and I hope we will be in a position to back this event. I would love to be able to back it, but there is that bit of cloud which I hope we can overcome.
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