Private Members' Business. - Stadium Ireland: Motion (Resumed).

Wednesday, 2 May 2001

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 535 No. 2

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The following motion was moved by Deputy Noonan on Tuesday, 1 May 2001:

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Order please, the House is in session. If Deputies wish to converse they should leave.

Dr. Upton:  I propose to share my time with Deputy Seán Ryan.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Dr. Upton:  I have yet to meet a person outside of this House who favours the Stadium Ireland project. Public policy is about making choices. We cannot have everything we want and we have to prioritise certain goals. This is a simplistic summary but an accurate one nevertheless. The Taoiseach has outlined his priorities both in terms of spending and assigning top level staff. He has chosen Stadium Ireland above other possible priorities, such as reforming the health services or tackling the growing under-class in society. This is not my choice, nor will it be the choice of the electorate. Ireland is a great sporting country, we have many talented top-level athletes in different sports and we are passionate about supporting sport, whether it be our county, local soccer or basketball club or even a Scottish or English soccer team.

Despite this passion and the commitment of many people to sport, the Government has been poor at developing sporting facilities, from physical infrastructure to coaching skills. Given the resources available to the Government, the time [633] is right to invest in sport. Stadium Ireland will not give value for money as nobody will benefit from it. It will be bad for Irish sport. Ordinary people will not have access to the facilities in this white elephant. They need better local sports facilities, like swimming pools and fitness centres. My constituency will lose a very successful gym on the Drimnagh Road. The Spheres squash club has been bought by a speculator to develop as a new private health facility which most people in my constituency will not ever have the opportunity to use. Due to lack of funds, Dublin Corporation prematurely closed the swimming pool in Ballyfermot and the redevelopment has been delayed again and again.

This project will not offer anything to top-level athletes, for example 14 year olds will still be exported to soccer clubs in Britain because junior clubs do not have the resources to develop their skills, which is a travesty. Countries like Norway have put together a comprehensive network of clubs to keep young players at home until their early 20s. This is better for domestic soccer, but also better for the young men concerned as it is easier for those who do not make the grade to begin a different career if they are settled at home. Such young men are much less likely to drop out of education, as currently many of them sadly fall through the education net when they are exported to English clubs.

The European Commission's recent intervention in the export of young players has relevance to Ireland and the poorest African countries. Surely, we can improve sports infrastructure to end this unacceptable export of young Irish players.

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Dr. McDaid): Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  The Deputy's party put £10 million into this area when it was in office, whereas this Government has put £117 million in one year alone.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  Will we get extra time to compensate for this interruption?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Deputy Upton should be allowed to conclude without interruption.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  The previous Government put in £10 million in two years.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  They were different times.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  Deputy Upton is not talking sense.

Dr. Upton:  Out-of-town stadia do not work. In recent days Tom Humphries put the case clearly why they do not work. Supporters will be stuck in traffic jams on the M50 on the way to the stadium, which will hardly compare to the atmosphere when one walks through town to Croke Park or Lansdowne Road. Lansdowne Road is an [634] excellent location and we should examine if it can be redeveloped.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  It cannot.

Dr. Upton:  There is quite poor use of space on the land and a bowl design would allow for more seats. At the very least, the possibility of the development of Lansdowne Road should be examined. The money that looks like being set aside for this project would be better spent on local sports facilities, on improving the accident and emergency unit in St. James's Hospital, on making occupational therapy more widely available and on providing psychological services in schools. These are small demands and people are suffering because these services are not available. We should reconsider our priorities.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the Stadium Ireland motion. I became involved in sport at an early age and got great satisfaction and enjoyment from, and had a certain amount of success in, various codes like soccer, gaelic football, hockey and cricket at a number of levels. I firmly believe young people's participation in sport is more important than ever, particularly given the counter-attractions that are available. There is a need for a national sports centre, including the best facilities for sportsmen, sportswomen and the general public. The question that needs to be addressed is where it is to be located and its size.

The Football Association of Ireland acknowledged this need some years ago, arising from its legitimate need for a home of its own and embarked on the Eircom Park project. I do not wish to discuss the internal politics of the FAI, particularly the affairs of its former chief executive, Bernard O'Byrne, except to say he had the vision and initiative to pursue the project. The major difficulty for Mr. O'Byrne and those within the FAI in favour of the project pursuing this ambition was the fact that Eircom Park stood in the way of the Taoiseach's Stadium Ireland vision.

The Taoiseach's project was not viable without the co-operation of the FAI and without five or six soccer internationals per year. Eircom Park had to be stopped in its tracks. The Taoiseach's friends in the FAI, whether from Dublin or from Galway, undermined the project. With support from the Taoiseach's friends in the media, they combined to scuttle Eircom Park. It should be noted that the Taoiseach had prepared to send in the Minister for Defence with a scud missile to undermine the project, if necessary. It was not necessary, however.

The possibility of opening Croke Park, which will have a capacity of 80,000 when completed, to other codes such as soccer and rugby was a further obstacle to the Taoiseach's plans. It was well known in GAA circles that the cost of completing Croke Park was a concern which would affect the GAA's development in the towns and [635] villages of Ireland. The possibility of having soccer and rugby played in Croke Park, in addition to pop concerts, American football and Australian rules, was a real financial consideration in the lead up to the GAA special conference on 7 April. However, the support of two thirds of the delegates was required at that conference. Days before the conference was held the Taoiseach arrived on his white horse to intervene. He offered the GAA £60 million to complete its stadium. This donation by the Taoiseach was sufficient to enable some of the die-hards within the GAA to effectively veto the opening up of Croke Park to soccer and rugby. I personally am not opposed to the GAA securing funds or significant grants for the completion of their stadium. However, I was shocked at the manner and timing of the Taoiseach's intervention. In retrospect, I should not have been, given his objective to clear the pitch for Stadium Ireland. Eircom Park has been eliminated and now so has Croke Park, due to the Taoiseach's intervention and the veto of the delegates.

The Irish Rugby Football Association had already committed itself to utilising Stadium Ireland for its international matches. There are major restrictions on the use of Lansdowne Road but there are possibilities for development which would involve a large windfall to that organisation.

One of the great advantages of playing an international match at home is the atmosphere and the participation of the Irish supporters. At one stage it was said that it was worth a one goal lead to start with. As someone who, like the Minister, has travelled with the Irish soccer team over the years, I can verify the complete lack of atmosphere in a stadium which is not full. In such circumstances there is a missing dimension. A second 80,000 seat stadium is not justified financially, particularly given the crisis in the health service and the inadequacies of grant-aid to sporting organisations throughout the country. A stadium with a capacity of 50,000 or 60,000 would be more than adequate.

I welcome the proposed review. It should have taken place long ago. In that context I regret that the Minister has stated he still wants an 80,000 seat stadium. We do not need that at present. We need the facilities for our young people, our stars and our teams. Hopefully we will get those facilities and not the Taoiseach's pipedream.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  While he is on his feet, would the Deputy tell us that he believes Croke Park could be what a national stadium should be?

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  No.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  I bet he would not.

Mr. M. Kitt: Information on Michael P. Kitt  Zoom on Michael P. Kitt  I wish to share time with the Minister of State, Deputy Tom Kitt, the Minister for [636] the Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Fahey, and Deputy O'Kennedy.

I support the Government amendment. I agree with the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid, that we are a long way behind other countries, and particularly our European neighbours, in the provision of sports facilities. Old Trafford, the Nou Camp, the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and the Stade de France were mentioned. When the national lottery was set up by former Minister, Deputy Donal Creed, it certainly was intended to provide sports facilities and these have been provided, but we are all aware that everybody wanted to raid the national lottery for other Government expenditure and, therefore, lottery money was spent on health projects, arts and heritage projects and the Irish language. Successive Governments have replaced Government funding in various areas with national lottery funds and this is disappointing.

Stadium and Campus Ireland, from a spectator's point of view, will provide people interested in sport with an opportunity to watch international sport in comfortable surroundings. This is not the current position. One cannot provide the same level of comfort in Croke Park or Lansdowne Road. The basic comfort envisaged in Stadium Ireland is that the spectators will not get wet. Unfortunately people still get wet in parts of the new Cusack Stand in Croke Park. While people in the premier or corporate seats at Croke Park do not get wet when it rains, those seated lower down in the stand do. Similarly in Lansdowne Road this situation arises in the temporary uncovered seats known as bucket seats, which allow the FAI to increase the seated capacity there to 35,000 for a soccer international. I understand that FIFA is trying to ban the use of these bucket seats at both ends of the pitch. Certainly many people were soaked during the recent soccer game between Ireland and Andorra at Lansdowne Road because there is covered seating only on either side of the pitch.

As the Opposition stated that the wrong location was chosen for Stadium and Campus Ireland, I would ask them to look at the locations of Croke Park and Lansdowne Road. It is not satisfactory that people who travel from all parts of the country to Dublin then must find a way through the city centre to Croke Park and Lansdowne Road. If there are large numbers of spectators travelling to these stadiums, even parking can be difficult. I must admit that it was relatively easy to find parking on the occasion of the national football league final last Sunday. Much has been made of the small attendance in Croke Park that day, but it should be pointed out that there was a great deal of controversy in both Galway and Mayo that two Connacht teams had to travel to Croke Park to play a national league final. Deputy Kenny campaigned all week to have the game played in Galway, Mayo or Roscommon. While playing in Croke Park was a useful [637] experience for the players, it certainly did not suit the supporters.

The Minister, Deputy McDaid, Deputy Kenny, who was a Minister in the previous Administration, and the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Fahey, have played their part in promoting sport and in bringing major sports events, such as the Ryder Cup and stages of the Tour de France, to Ireland but, as the Minister Deputy McDaid said, the sports business is also about tourism. Conference business is important in that regard in that one needs hotels to hold conferences and these promote tourism also, but of course we also need major stadia if we are ever to stage events such as the European athletics championship, the European football championship, the Rugby World Cup finals, the Champions League or the UEFA Cup Final. How will Ireland be considered as a venue for the Olympic Games, as Deputy Gay Mitchell proposed, if we do not have a national stadium? Deputy Mitchell is a man of vision but he was sneered at and ridiculed when he proposed Dublin as a venue for the Olympic Games. The same begrudgers ridiculed Knock International Airport, describing it as a foggy boggy hill. They also ridiculed the refurbishment of Government Buildings and Dublin Castle.

The Minister, Deputy McDaid, has increased capital expenditure on sport to £83 million, which is a relatively small sum in the context of this year's expenditure on public services of £20 billion. It is, as the House will be aware, relatively easy to host the world cross-country athletic championships or find golf clubs to host the Ryder Cup, but I think we should aspire to staging other sporting events. The hosting of the Special Olympics in 2003 should give us a wake-up call. The facilities for the athletes and the host town idea must be put in place and indeed the provision of an aquatic and leisure centre at Abbotstown is important to that venture.

Politicians have been accused of rushing to Dublin Airport to welcome home our winning teams and athletes, but I would point out that most of these successful athletes are training abroad. They are now getting some help from the Minister but in the past they had to get scholarships to train and study in the United States. After the last Olympics in Sydney there was disappointment in the media that Ireland “achieved only one silver medal”, through Sonia O'Sullivan, but I submit that we need a sports campus and facilities for all sports. We certainly need a 50 metre swimming pool and the Government has shown courage by appointing the first sports Minister in the history of the State and increasing sports funding to £83 million.

I would also point out that people around the country are interested in providing sports facilities. There are 1,450 applications now with the Minister under the sports capital programme. That shows the great interest Irish people have in sport and I hope the Minister, the Government [638] and the Taoiseach will get support from the people for this project.

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. T. Kitt): Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  I support my colleague, the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid, and wholeheartedly support Sports Campus Ireland, which includes a national stadium. I am one of the many enthusiastic supporters of this project. I was delighted when the FAI came on board as its involvement will greatly enhance the status of the project. I have no doubt that with the active support of the GAA, the IRFU and the FAI, Stadium and Campus Ireland will be a resounding success.

Sports Campus Ireland is a people's campus. The local community, the people of Dublin and the people of Ireland deserve no less.

This project falls within the category of visionary developments which have taken place in Ireland in recent decades and I commend the Minister, Deputy McDaid, for his determined efforts in moving it forward. I also commend the Taoiseach for having the vision to promote the stadium with such energy and passion. I know that he had the interests of the hundreds of thousands of sports lovers at heart when he put forward this proposal.

Perhaps it is no harm to cast our minds back to the time when there was not so much money around. We should remember the public appeals and the media frenzy on the urgent need for a national stadium during the Jack Charlton era when he was head of our national team during the World Cup soccer campaign. Many politicians, including Deputies Deenihan, Allen and others, were rightly to the forefront in supporting the cause. Remember Michelle Smith's Olympic swimming success. People said it was a disgrace we did not have a 50 metre swimming pool. We can have both now. The people have built up this great economy over the past ten years and they deserve Sports Campus Ireland.

Croke Park cannot and never will be a national stadium, as up to 40,000 people live in the vicinity of our great Gaelic stadium. It would be unfair if they were asked to accommodate a national stadium in their front and back gardens with the associated floodlights, etc. I predict the GAA will open its doors to other sports this time next year, but that is as far as it will go. Croke Park is a GAA park, its opening up to the occasional soccer match would be an important, historic and cultural event, but we can forget about converting it into a national stadium.

Fine Gael's position on this debate is disingenuous. It is clear there are divisions within the rank and many of its members are silent. Deputy Noonan made two serious errors in his speech last night. First, he said that the aquatic centre was added to the project without proper Cabinet approval. That is untrue. The 50 metre pool project was a subject of two Government decisions. Second, and more serious, was the Deputy's alle[639] gation that the Government approached the organisers of the Special Olympics regarding the use of the aquatic centre for the Special Olympics in 2003. He said the Special Olympics committee had made other arrangements to run the swimming events elsewhere. That is untrue. The international organising committee of the Special Olympics insisted on an eight lane 50 metre pool and said that if the Abbottstown pool was not available a temporary structure would have to be built and removed after the games.

I attended a fund-raising function for the Special Olympics last night and am aware that the organisers are delighted with the availability of the 50 metre pool. It is a disgrace Deputy Noonan would use the Special Olympics in this way. He is trying to drag everybody down to his level of despondency.

There should be no confusion between our desire to deliver a world class project and at the same time have regard to how we spend taxpayers' money. That understanding is central to the Government's approach to the development of Sports Campus Ireland. I thought the days of begrudgery were behind us, but sadly under the leadership of Deputy Noonan begrudgery and despondency are back centre stage in Irish politics.

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Fahey): Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  As a former Minister of State with responsibility for sport, I listened with interest to the debate on Sports Campus Ireland. Much of the comments I heard, as I am sure some of the Members across the floor will agree, have been completely uninformed. This is particularly true of the debate on whether we need two stadia in Dublin. It seems to be forgotten that while Croke Park is a fine stadium and will be a fantastic facility when completed, it is just for Gaelic games and up to last Easter the GAA stoutly refused to even consider making it available for soccer and rugby. In practical terms, Croke Park has its limitations. It does not have planning permission for floodlights, a basic requirement for holding international soccer and rugby games. The planning permission for Croke Park specifically restricts the number of non-GAA events in any one year to three.

The other argument is that two 80,000 seater stadia in Dublin are not viable. If we consider the original feasibility study commissioned, we will realise that the base case for the viability of Stadium Ireland was six major events. That does not mean the stadium has to be full for every event. The FAI has no home, despite its best efforts to get one. It has now agreed to go into Stadium Ireland. The statement made yesterday by the FAI is significant. It said the development is the most positive development for Irish sport in the history of the State. The IRFU has long recognised that Lansdowne Road is outdated and no longer has the capacity to meet the crowd requirements for rugby internationals. Up to six [640] rugby internationals are played here a year, which command crowds of between 50,000 and 80,000.

I am sure the House is aware that 74 games a year are played in Croke Park. The GAA recognises the need to protect its asset in terms of the pitch and, on that basis, has been fully supportive of Stadium Ireland.

Not only will Stadium Ireland be viable, it will be profitable. I would like to scotch the argument about Stadium Ireland being too big, with the downsizing technologies available in modern stadia, it will be possible to take the stadium size down from 80,000 to 60,000 to 40,000 without losing the intimate atmosphere that the fans want. Returning to a point Deputy Gay Mitchell made, if in the future we are to hold the Olympics, what is the point in having a 60,000 seater stadium? What short-term planning would that reflect?

When I was Minister of State with responsibility for sport from 1987 to 1992, one recurring question posed by people was why spend taxpayers' money on sport, why not spend it on health, education or social services? If one has a blinkered view of life, it is difficult to answer that question. There hardly seems any contest as to what the priority should be. Taking the argument to its logical conclusion, why should we spend money on the arts, parks or on the environment?

Mr. Browne: Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  (Carlow-Kilkenny): The Minister does not appear to want answers.

Mr. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Why not put 1% of GNP over the next 25 years into the national pension fund into which we have put £2 billion from the sale of Eircom and the State banks?

Mr. Browne: Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  (Carlow-Kilkenny): That money would be used.

Mr. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Why should we proceed with this, if the argument put forward by Fine Gael and Labour was to stand up?

Public expenditure policy is a question of finding a balance between the interests of the public good in the short and long term. Government policy based on vision and foresight should have a balanced portfolio of activity where the priorities are areas such as health and education, but where there is also a place for prevention and recreation. That is the essence of sport and it gives just as good a return on Exchequer expenditure as any other area.

We have heard the short-sighted approach taken by Fine Gael and the Labour Party, or at least by some members of Fine Gael in particular, as I am aware some of its members hold the opposite view.

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  We are not all sheep like the Deputies opposite.

Mr. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  The Leaders of the two parties, in particular, have displayed a degree of political opportunism and desperation in the way in which they have engaged in this debate.

[641]Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Where has the Minister been for the past six to nine months when Deputy Allen has been highlighting the danger of this?

Mr. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  The focus of Opposition criticism has been on the proposed outdoor stadium which is estimated to cost £230 million. The Government agreed yesterday to an independent review of the costs of the stadium and campus project. This will allow a comprehensive evaluation of every aspect of the project.

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  It should have been the first thing to be secured.

Mr. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  This is a welcome development and it will give us an informed critical analysis, which will ensure that the project, when it proceeds, will command the support it deserves.

To abandon the main thrust of the project, the 80,000 seater stadium, the 15,000 seater indoor arena, the aquatic centre and sports campus project, would be a retrograde step for which future generations would not easily forgive us.

It would have been beneficial if the courage and foresight now being displayed by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation was displayed in 1991. As Minister of State with responsibility for sport, I put a proposal to the GAA to allow three soccer and three rugby games per year to be played in Croke Park. The estimated cost of its proposed development at that time was £100 million and in return we proposed that £55 million would be made available by the Government and through the sale of long-term tickets by the IRFU and the FAI, but sadly that offer was rejected by the GAA. If only the GAA had the foresight then that it is beginning to display now, we would have a national stadium complete in Croke Park and the GAA would be a much stronger organisation than it is today. As a GAA man, I glad to say it is a strong organisation.

In 1990 the Government got to tender stage on the provision of a 15,000 seater indoor arena and a 50 metre swimming pool on a site we purchased in the Docklands. We proposed a public private partnership and got to the point of shortlisting six consortia for a design, construct and manage tender bid. The total cost of that project to the Exchequer was only £35 million ten years ago. It was the brainchild of Noel Lindsay, the then Secretary of the Department of Education. It was a project that was ten years before its time, or perhaps 20 years before its time, if people like Deputies Noonan and Quinn get their way.

Unfortunately, it was exactly the same arguments as those being put forward today which killed that project. Instead of engaging in political opportunism and saying “When I am Taoiseach, I will put a stop to this project”, Deputy Noonan should talk to the people of Limerick, who would give their right arm to attend a soccer or rugby international, or an all Ireland hurling final. They will tell him to stop making such a silly declaration.

[642]Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  Both my party colleague, Deputy Fahey, and I share the experience of being Minister with responsibility for sport at different times, 1970-72 in my case. I wish to comment on the spurious opposition that has been presented to this project. The Fine Gael motion suggests that the funds in question would be better spent on health, education, social welfare, etc. Over many years in this House, I have heard the same objection to several other Government proposals. One such example was in 1973, when Ireland joined the European Union. The Government made quite a practical decision that we needed our own executive jet. The Opposition of the day complained about Fianna Fáil getting above themselves and having illusions, instead of looking after the old, the sick and the disabled. How can one ever defeat an argument, based on such concerns, against a Government service or a stadium?

(Interruptions.)

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  Let me finish my story —

(Interruptions.)

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  They came into government unexpectedly in 1973 – the Irish people do make mistakes from time to time – and could not then go ahead with the acquisition of the Government executive jet. Because of their short-sighted populist appeal on behalf of the poor, the needy and the old, that Government had to do without an essential service for the following four years. It is a matter of record that—

(Interruptions.)

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  Dr. Garret Fitzgerald, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, was late for meetings and hitched a lift on an RAF plane from time to time. When we returned to Government, I became Minister for Foreign Affairs and Dr. Fitzgerald invited me to his office for consultation on current policy issues. As I was leaving his office, he urged that the Government should proceed to acquire the jet and assured me that there would not be a squeak from any of his people about it.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  Anybody who has experience of being in Government would have to recognise that it was an essential service but of course the arguments for health and social services, which were put forward then as now, sounded entirely plausible.

My second point relates to the proliferation of organisations in Irish sport and recreation to an extent which differs significantly from any other country in Europe, as Deputy Allen will be aware. While I do not criticise the sporting organisations for this, towns throughout the country have a range of separate facilities but nowhere [643] have we got a really comprehensive facility. Instead of an integrated national approach, every organisation wants its own facility. We now need a national stadium which is up to the standard of any other country in Europe. There are examples in Stuttgart, Munich, Amsterdam and elsewhere of what we should have.

The Opposition should be honest and up front with the people on this issue. They should acknowledge openly that, by scrapping the proposed national stadium, we need never expect to host any major international event. Some time ago, Deputy Gay Mitchell spoke of having the Olympic games in Ireland. It is incredible to hear his party now saying that the money should be spent on health and social welfare and challenging anybody to object to that.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  If we are to reach the standard of recognition of other nations, we need to have these facilities. If it is the view of Fine Gael that we never want to be in a position to host a major international sporting event, they should go to the people on that basis. Despite the recognised status of Ireland on every front, we would then have to acknowledge that we are so impoverished we cannot provide the facilities which even small countries like Luxembourg and Slovenia already have.

I am privileged to support the Government motion.

Mr. Coveney:  I am sharing time with Deputies Farrelly, Allen, Owen and McCormack. I welcome the opportunity to again speak on this motion. For the second time, Fine Gael have felt obliged to devote Private Members' Time to the subject of Stadium Ireland. It continues to be an issue of huge public interest and concern across the country, for sports fans and others. As stated by the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation last evening, this is one of the largest single projects ever undertaken by any Government in this State. I wish to make a number of points quite clear in response to Deputy McDaid's inaccurate and petty comments relating to Fine Gael last night. They were politically motivated and had no foundation. To suggest that my party is not interested in the development of sport and sporting infrastructure is nonsense and he knows it.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  Facts.

Mr. Coveney:  It is a fact that Fine Gael was responsible for the introduction of a national sports capital programme funded by the national lottery introduced by Deputy Donal Creed in the 1980s. Fine Gael under Deputy Allen as Minister was also responsible for a national plan for sport which was supported by all parties in this House. That the Government has more money at its dis[644] posal to spend on sport should not be twisted to create an impression that the Government parties have a monopoly on sporting interest in this House. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fine Gael does not have a problem with the principle of a national stadium.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  Deputy Noonan even objected to that.

Mr. Coveney:  Nor does it have a problem with a centre of sporting excellence in campus Ireland. We support the idea behind sporting campus Ireland as it would provide a top class facility for top athletes to fulfil their full potential. The aquatic centre is a vital development as we prepare for the 2003 Special Olympics, something I am very proud we are involved in. What this debate is about is simple. It is about the development of a giant 80,000 seat stadium outside the centre of Dublin which we feel will cost a fortune and may turn out to be a disaster in many other ways. There are a number of valid grounds for our concerns and first is cost. No matter what spin the Minister wants to put on the figures the total cost of building this stadium and the infrastructure to make it work properly will be close to £1 billion.

The Government's decision to undertake a review of direct and indirect costs of the stadium project suggests one of two possibilities to me. The first is that the Government did not before now, undertake a comprehensive costings of this project that they can rely on. That is unbelievable. The second possibility is that taxpayers money is being spent on a second costings exercise in order to satisfy the Opposition and the minority Government party. How can there be any doubt in the Taoiseach's or the Minister's mind about costings at this stage of the project?

Another reason for concern is location. Does it make sense to build a stadium for 80,000 on a site to which people will have to be ferried from the city and the country when an 80,000 seat stadium already exists and is under utilised and within walking distance of Heuston station, Connolly station and Busáras?

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  It cannot be a national stadium as soccer or rugby cannot be played there.

Mr. Coveney:  The third reason is viability. There are a number of large recently built stadiums across the world in countries with far larger populations than Ireland and in cities with far larger populations than Dublin. They are turning out to be financial disasters for example Stade de France, Stadium Australia and now the proposal for a new Wembley stadium which may not go ahead in London. I will be honest and say that the idea of a national stadium for 80,000 people excites me as a sports participant and fan, but we must be realistic. Can Dublin support two 80,000 seat stadiums? Is there not a danger that if we [645] build a second both may find it impossible to survive financially?

I mention the opportunity cost – or maybe I should say the opportunity lost – of the project in relation to the value of other projects that could have been funded with the massive amount of money that is being spent on this project. Fine Gael made it quite clear, Deputy Allen in particular, that we have a bottom up approach towards building an infrastructure. We need to fund local clubs and sporting facilities across the country before we spend a fortune on a national stadium. This year nearly 1,500 clubs across the country have applied for lottery funding for capital grants. How many of them will receive the grants for which they have applied?

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  By the way, the number that will be successful will not all be able to use the funds for which they have applied but will hand some back.

Mr. Coveney:  The number who will be successful will be far less than those that should, I would imagine and yet the Government is happy to move ahead with a project that will cost nearly £1 billion. My case rests.

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on this issue. We are all human and most will have played sport at some time in our lives. A national complex will be welcome. What annoys me about this is the way the Government and the present Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation have tried to achieve it. They have split the FAI right down the middle and the chief executive is gone within a month of the decision to get the FAI on board. That was done with taxpayers money. The Taoiseach went to the GAA the day before the national conference took place. On its agenda was one of the most important votes to take place in 50 years. The Taoiseach wanted it carried and without approval from the Cabinet he offered money. That is a fact.

The Government has not taken into consideration the £250 million for 'Bertie's Bowl' or the stadium itself. To date £187 million has been or will be spent to move the staff from Abbotstown. It was to be £90 million but now it is £187 million and that is without taking any account of the price of the land. It is worth £150 million on today's market and that should be included in the cost. I hope the consultants will be given the proper instructions to bring back the total cost to the State of providing this.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  Is the Deputy saying we should sell the land to developers?

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  I did not say that. It should be included in the cost. Do not underestimate or avoid telling the facts. That is what the Minister did on the radio this morning and very poorly, if I may say so. In relation to the costs, nobody has a problem with substantial funds being given to [646] the GAA or the FAI although clubs around the country have poor facilities. One thing I would like to see if this proposal goes ahead – and it looks like the Government intends staying in office long enough to see it going so far that it cannot be reversed – is a cap on the cost. It should be £250 million only and the rest of the money should come from the private sector. There is enough money in that sector. In the event that we cannot afford to run all of these stadiums, will the Government proceed, as happened in England with the Dome, with huge amounts of money being spent on a continual basis and the national lottery becoming the fund to keep it going? Then the Government might talk to the individual investors who might want to buy it from the Government for nothing. I do not like the way this is being done and somebody should call stop and say that a certain amount of money only will be provided on condition the rest of it comes from the private sector. That is the way this should be dealt with.

I have not seen the auction politics that were around in the early 1980s revisited as they have been in recent months. On a Friday night the Taoiseach could have £80 million or whatever and then the Minister could be with the FAI trying to break their proposals for a covered stadium where soccer could be played hail, rain or snow. A covered stadium was the thing to have in a climate where the last three days have been the first three days during which it has not rained in 18 months almost. Auction politics have been revisited with taxpayers money and the Minister is part of it. It is wrong. It was wrong in 1982 and the Minister and the Taoiseach have put the auction politics of the early 1980s in the ha'penny place.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  The Taoiseach's dream of a national stadium has turned into a political nightmare for him as costs escalate from £250 million to at least £1 billion. I am amused at the PD's sudden political strength or posturing on this issue. Any PD reading the report on the examination of Stadium Ireland by the Joint Committee on Tourism, Sport and Recreation, 14 September 2000, should have reacted then. When I calculated as a result of evidence from Mr. Paddy Teahon, principal director of the project, that Stadium Ireland would cost at least £1 billion, it was met with disbelief by many in the Oireachtas and the in media. Seven months later, having spent several millions of pounds of taxpayers' money, the Progressive Democrats have suddenly discovered their political backbone in questioning the project. As the saying goes “it is never too late”. I welcome its belated conversion to questioning this madcap project.

I questioned it for different reasons. Planning a 21st century project when our national sporting infrastructure in places is of a 19th century standard is getting priorities askew. The development of a national stadium contradicts the 1997 national plan for sports which was supported by [647] all parties in the House. The project is being pushed by powerful commercial interests rather than by the real sportsmen and women who work long and hard to develop their respective sports. Major investment in a spectator facility, rather than in developing participatory sports, is to get the priorities wrong yet again.

I regret that I have little time to present further opinions but refer to my statements to the Dáil on 30 and 31 January 2001, as well as my views expressed in the Oireachtas committee on 14 September 2000 where Mr. Teahon and his associates floundered in attempting to answer questions posed by me and other committee members. Mr. Teahon and his associates were equally unconvincing in a subsequent private meeting in answering questions about use of the facilities and the scale of priorities in the national plan for sport.

There are powerful vested interests pushing this project and I wonder what influence they have on the Taoiseach. A £50 million donation was the catalyst for the stadium and, despite attempts to get further details of the contract between the donor and the Government, all we have is the copy of a contract from a Swiss bank, which gave an undertaking on behalf of an unnamed client. It is in the Oireachtas Library and this is a matter of public record. I am also concerned that a company appointed to pull the project together has a cast iron contract giving it a gross of 1.8% of the development costs. It has a vested interest in pushing the stadium to a point of no return.

The Taoiseach and the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation defused the political crises caused by the Progressive Democrats' revolt by promising an independent study of the project and this gets the Progressive Democrats off the political hook. I am concerned that as a prime promoter of the stadium, the Minister, will select the consultancy firm to assess it. Mr. McDaid cannot be trusted on this issue. To justify his stance he reduced himself to heaping personal abuse on his critics in a hysterical interview on “Morning Ireland” this morning.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Hear, hear.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  He explained a new assessment of the project by stating that he was reacting to the public furore. The saying “he who pays the piper calls the tune” is relevant to this situation and it is not too late for the Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Sport and Recreation, or an all-party committee of the House, to assess the project, which could be one of the most expensive ever undertaken and which is unlikely to give the return to the taxpayer on the investment. The massive investment would be better spent on developing a major, modern national sporting infrastructure to cater for young and old alike at all levels of ability.

[648]Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  I join my colleague, Deputy Coveney, in refuting the efforts by the Minister, the Taoiseach, and other members of Fianna Fáil to say that no one on this side of the House is interested in sport. Because we do not wear football scarves and get photo-calls at every hand's turn does not mean that we are not interested. There is not a Member of this House who has not worked in his or her own communities to ensure that sporting, community and recreational facilities are available. How dare he insult us when he knows the truth.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  The facts speak for themselves.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  They are not the facts.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  They are the facts.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  A total of 1,467 applications were received in the Minister's Department for this year's tranche of national lottery funding. That amounts to about £220 million. He is giving a total of £19.345 million, which will cover less than 10% of the applications he received for good projects throughout the country. If that does not tell what is going wrong with the spending—

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  It was £62 million spent in the past two years.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  A total of £19 million was provided to cater for the 2001 applications and there is more than—

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  Did the Deputy say £19 million? It is £90 million.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  £19 million.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  Where did the Deputy get that figure?

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  At the end of your questions—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should address her remarks to the Chair.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  It was a total of £62 million in the past two years.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Minister should not interrupt.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  A total of £19.345 million was provided in the Department's Estimates.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  Where did you get that information?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Order, please.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  I am reading it for 2001—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Will the Deputy please direct her remarks to the Chair?

[649]Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  A Cheann Comhairle, it is the Minister who is interrupting. I am reading his question that he answered today.

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  It is the Minister who is interrupting.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Will the Deputy address the Chair instead of the Minister?

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Approximately £220 million's worth of excellent projects have been applied for by GAA, soccer and other clubs.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  A sum of £62 million pounds in the past two years.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Please.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Minister, you will not be able to fulfil those. I have a few pertinent questions. Could we have the real story as to why the Office of Public Works resiled from this project and went back to hold the Minister's hand? I heard that it was unhappy with the way it was managed. Why, on 19 April, did an advertisement appear looking for project management services? Was not McGahey and Company to provide that? A huge advertisement appeared in the journals in European states and applicants have two weeks to reply. It says that by mid-May the Minister intends to appoint a project management services team. I thought that was there already. What conflict of interest might have existed in a consulting engineering firm, hired to give advice to McGahey and Company, finding themselves to be the winner of part of the contract for the aquatic centre? Is there anything odd in that? Perhaps he will get an opportunity to explain some of these discrepancies. Why is the project management services team being appointed a year after some work was awarded? Does the Minister know what is happening?

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  My constituency colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, sat beside the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation but did not support him in this project. My other constituency colleague, Deputy Fahey, said that in 1991 as Minister of State with responsibility for Sport, he put a proposal to the GAA to allow three soccer and three rugby games to be played in Croke Park. He could not have made a better case than Fine Gael's for developing it as the national stadium. The Taoiseach's announcement of a £60 million grant to Croke Park on the eve of the GAA congress ensured that it did not need to open it to other field sports. In return, the GAA agreed to play some of its games at Stadium Ireland and to confine Croke Park to Gaelic games.

This was the result which the Taoiseach wanted so as to press ahead with spending £1 billion of taxpayers' money on the national stadium. He did not have Cabinet approval for that £60 million and one must assume that his promise was, at [650] best, a bluff or, at worst, a bribe. Is the Taoiseach so obsessed with this project that he is prepared to spend £1 billion when a few weeks ago the Government challenged a £400,000 award to Mrs. Synott in the Supreme Court case concerning her son? It is extraordinary and questionable that he is proceeding with the project. Imagine how that sum could be used if it was distributed to communities to provide much needed sports facilities in every locality. What would it do for people on hospital waiting lists? What would it mean to the parents of children who have been on waiting lists for orthodontic treatment for four or five years? I advise the Government to call a halt to the haste with which it is trying to push ahead with the Taoiseach's pet project when there are other more urgent demands on finances. The Taoiseach must now take responsibility for the backward decision of the GAA Congress not to open Croke Park to other games.

We now discover that this grant to Croke Park has not been approved by Cabinet and there is serious doubt hanging over it. Even if Croke Park now gets this money, it will not solve the long-term problems of the GAA. It will still face difficulty in generating the necessary income from a small number of fixtures, especially now that they are to play some of their matches up to all-Ireland semi-finals in the proposed new stadium.

The Government will be forced to rethink its policy on the national stadium. As a life-long member of the GAA, I believe the GAA will be forced to rethink its policy on excluding other sports from Croke Park. I do not worry about the Progressive Democrats. They will troop into the lobbies tonight behind the Government.

Mr. Browne: Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  (Carlow-Kilkenny): Ar eagla na h-eagla go bhfuil an Taoiseach ag éisteacht liom, ba mhaith liom a chur in iúil dó nach raibh mé riamh ag tiddlywinks. However, I spent much of my youth playing Gaelic football and training Gaelic footballers, and a good share of time at hurling and football matches, and I hope there will be a victory next Sunday for my native sod.

I am a firm believer in mens sana in corpore sano, but I do not believe that an 80,000-seater stadium will be any help in keeping either healthy bodies or healthy minds. We need facilities, and I have no objection to the provision of racing tracks, swimming pools and so on, but building an 80,000-seater stadium that will not be used except rarely, is farcical, as is the idea that the GAA would be expected to transfer matches out of its excellent top-class Croke Park stadium in order to give the impression that the new stadium is needed.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  It has 74 matches a year. It has 29 matches in the championship alone.

Mr. Browne: Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  (Carlow-Kilkenny): I am a GAA man so the Minister need not talk nonsense to me. Croke Park is there for GAA matches. If it was overcrowded or there were not enough Sun[651] days on which to play Gaelic and hurling matches there, I could see matches being played in the new stadium. However, that is not being suggested because of shortage of time but simply to provide a cover for a new stadium that is not needed. The GAA is being asked to take out its matches, but last Sunday's league final could have been played out there with 22,000 people attending. There are only one or two matches, the all-Ireland final and maybe an exceptional clash at semi-final stage where attendance would border on 70,000, not to mention 80,000. This is baffling as far as I am concerned.

I would love to see the money spent on sport. I am all for that, as is my party. The attacks on Deputy Michael Noonan tonight showed that he got to the nub of the matter. Government speakers talked balderdash about his attitude. He got to the core of the issue and showed what happened in other countries. I read an article last Sunday to which I replied and maybe the reply will be in print next Sunday; the idea that any journalist would describe those who oppose the building of this stadium as a misinformed mob—

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Was that Deputy Willie O'Dea?

Mr. Browne: Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  (Carlow-Kilkenny): No, it was not. In fairness, it was not a reflection of his views, to his credit. Anyone who thinks those who hold different views belong to the misinformed mob is, perhaps, informed by the Department as to what propaganda to put out. However, people are entitled to their views and to agree or disagree, especially on spending a possible £1 billion. We are entitled to express our view. We support the provision of sporting facilities for young people right across the country.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  I wish to share my time with Deputies McGinley, Cosgrave and Noonan.

I was probably the first public representative to express strong reservations about this project. I did so initially as Deputy for Dublin West because of the negative effect it will have on the quality of life of my constituents, particularly those in the Blanchardstown and Castleknock areas. I now also oppose it on national grounds as well as for constituency reasons.

This proposed stadium is being foisted on the people of west Dublin without consultation with them or their community organisations—

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  That is not true, and the Deputy knows it.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  —or, as I established in this House shortly after this monument to the Taoiseach's ego was first announced, any consultation with Fingal County Council. That is a record of a reply from the Minister in this House at an early stage.

[652]Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  The Deputy circulated 15,000 homes to get a meeting and fewer than 100 people turned up.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  The Minister had already taken the decision. As a Deputy for the area—

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  The Deputy is misinformed.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  The Minister was hysterical this morning. He should not get hysterical now. As a Deputy for the area, I oppose it, and in my opposition I have the support of the local Fine Gael Councillor and, I hope, after the next election, my successor in Dublin West. I also have the support of the Fine Gael organisation in the constituency and of the great majority of ordinary people, community organisations and community activists.

The infrastructure of Dublin West cannot cope with current demands, never mind the burden of an 80,000-seater stadium. We are told that this infrastructure will be provided. However, we have heard that before, and the gridlock at 3.00 p.m. tells us not to rely on such promises. The infrastructure should be put in first, and then we will consider the reality of the Taoiseach's dream.

There are areas of serious social need in the greater Blanchardstown area, in Lucan, Clondalkin and other areas of west Dublin where a portion of this estimated £1 billion would substantially increase the quality of life. The hospitals in Blanchardstown could do with some money too. The health of our young people would be improved more by the provision of physical education teachers in national schools than by any “Bertie Bowl”. The future of young people in every town and village would be greatly enhanced by the provision of alternatives to the pub.

I will not attempt to repeat the arguments of my colleagues in relation to the national perspective. I make no apology for being local, even parochial, on this matter – that is why we are elected on a geographical basis to this House. From the very beginning, the Taoiseach has been determined to push this project through. That is why there was so little emphasis on local consultation and local wishes. That is why, in relation to those who had reservations about this project, he attempted to intimidate one half of them and to bribe the other half. I noted with satisfaction, in the course of this Fine Gael initiated debate, a headline in one of our national papers which read “Government backs down on cost of Bertie Bowl”. I hope in three months' time, when a truly independent assessment of the stadium project will have been completed, that sanity will return.

Mr. McGinley: Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  There is a myth being promulgated by the Taoiseach and by the Minister with responsibility for sport that anyone opposed to Stadium Ireland is anti-sport. Nothing could be further from the truth.

[653]Mr. E. Ryan: Information on Eoin Ryan  Zoom on Eoin Ryan  The Deputy's party put only £3.4 million into sport.

Mr. McGinley: Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  While Fine Gael is opposed, strictly on the grounds of cost, to spending £1 billion of taxpayers' money on another stadium in Dublin, we are very much in favour of and have always been supportive of sport.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  The Deputy is paying lip service to it.

Mr. McGinley: Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  I was here in 1986—

Mr. E. Ryan: Information on Eoin Ryan  Zoom on Eoin Ryan  Your investment in sport was terrible.

Mr. McGinley: Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  —when the then Minister of State, Deputy Donal Creed, introduced the national lottery fund. Fianna Fáil has been very busy since disbursing the funds that have been accruing from that fund for a number of years. Deputy Bernard Allen, when he was Minister of State, set up the expert group under the chairmanship of John Treacy to provide a future strategy for sport . The last two governments in which Fine Gael served provided the finance for sport through the national lottery, and the strategy for the development of sport through the Irish Sports Council.

Mr. E. Ryan: Information on Eoin Ryan  Zoom on Eoin Ryan  You do not even believe that yourself.

Mr. McGinley: Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  Fine Gael is very much aware of the value of sport and the importance of having as wide a participation as possible. However, our priority must be to make sport available to as many potential participants as possible in all parts of the country. Providing a £1 billion stadium in Dublin will not achieve that aim. Massive investment in such a scheme will do little or nothing for those involved in sport in Donegal, Galway, Clare or any part of rural Ireland.

Yesterday the Minister with responsibility for sport informed me that in 2001, 95 applications had been received from sporting organisations and clubs in Donegal for lottery funding. The total projected cost of all these applications from Donegal alone is £15 million. I am sure a similar number of applications have been received from other counties. Would it not be more sensible to allocate surplus funds to these clubs and organisations to underpin and develop sporting facilities in their areas? It is a sad state of affairs that rural communities that are anxious to provide essential sporting and recreational facilities are often dependent on community employment schemes to finance their projects. Given the enthusiasm and dedication of these community employment scheme workers, they deserve a lot more support in their efforts.

Yesterday, Deputy Creed mentioned that a large number of schools are without sports halls and PE facilities. The Minister, Deputy McDaid, is well aware that Donegal is no exception. In my [654] parish, Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair, which was built well over 20 years ago and has between 300 and 400 pupils, does not have a sports hall. The same can be said of Dunloe community school, Arranmore post primary school, Tory Island post primary school, Coláiste Cholmcille and Ballinamore. The list goes on and on. They do not even have sports halls. At a time when sport and PE are becoming an integral part of our educational curriculum, it is unbelievable that so many schools are left without these basic requirements. Surely, our priorities must be more realistic.

Should we not respond positively to the organisations that have applied for funding towards the development of sporting facilities in their own areas and throughout the country? If we have a £1 billion to spend, let us spend it on the ground and give everyone an opportunity to participate, rather than some spectators in Dublin.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  When Deputy McGinley's party was in Government for three years, Donegal got nothing.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Michael Joe Cosgrave  Zoom on Michael Joe Cosgrave  I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. On rare occasions in this nation's history has the Government of the day the opportunity to make an immediate positive difference. Some £1 billion puts this administration in that position. The plan for Abbotstown is overly ambitious when one considers the lack of adequate local facilities to meet the demands of local teams and clubs in every part of this country. It is unrealistic to develop a stadium and campus on the proposed scale when we have players changing their kit in ditches.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  That is not true.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Michael Joe Cosgrave  Zoom on Michael Joe Cosgrave  It is true. The Minister should come out to my local club in Baldoyle which applied to him for a grant and got nothing. They are stripping under ditches.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Michael Joe Cosgrave  Zoom on Michael Joe Cosgrave  I will bring the Minister out and show him. When reasonable conditions do not exist and inadequate all weather training facilities—

Mr. E. Ryan: Information on Eoin Ryan  Zoom on Eoin Ryan  Name the club.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Michael Joe Cosgrave  Zoom on Michael Joe Cosgrave  Baldoyle United. The Minister should come out and look at them on a Sunday. They applied to the Minister for funding but got nothing – not a penny. Innisfails in Coolock got nothing except what it got from local authorities. This proposal is not for this time. It may at some time become a realistic proposition when all other sporting and social needs of the needs of the nation have been met.

Our communities must be sported by facilities which serve the needs of the people. At this time [655] Government should be encouraging all its citizens to become actively involved in sport, irrespective of age. The State should be promoting a programme of participation in some form of physical exercise by the citizen. The benefits of such a scheme are many, from improving the physical health of the person to improving their mental well being and, importantly, their stress level would be reduced. Considering this Government's lack of policy to deal with the issues which generate high stress level, one would expect that the Government would put in place strategies to compensate for its lack of pro-active policies in the areas of transport, health and education.

This proposal escalates in cost daily with unreal costing assigned to it from its inception. Currently, it has a price tag of £1 billion – a figure which in reality is an underestimation due to the cost which will be incurred. Should the project be proceeded with given that issues such as lack of transport infrastructure are not sufficiently costed in this proposal? The damage to the adjacent community has not been considered. The strain on the M50 would be such as to turn it into a virtual car park.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  After the hysterical display of the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation on radio this morning, I am nearly afraid to stand up.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  We can take the Deputy's insults.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  I understand that early contributors from the Fianna Fáil party this evening seemed to equate opposition to the stadium with lack of interest in sport. They also seem to equate interest in being spectators at matches with participation in sport but, of course, it is not. We know they are great spectators, especially when they get free tickets, but we never heard that they participated in sport to any great degree. It is very inappropriate that they should launch such charges at the Opposition when our spokesman on sport, Deputy Deenihan, has five all-Ireland senior medals, has one under 21 all-Ireland medal—

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  He was very reluctant to support the motion.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  —and has played more often in Croke Park than the Artane Boys Band.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  And he never played tiddlywinks.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  He does not use sport for political advantage, nor do we in Fine Gael. There is an attempt by the Taoiseach to brand himself as spectator extraordinary – Irish sports spectator extraordinary – and to rebrand Fianna Fáil as the party that is interested in sport and, as a consequence, rebrand the rest of us as having no interest whatsoever in it.

[656] The difficulty with Stadium Ireland is that there is no grip on the finances. The figures provided by various Department and by the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation have now exceeded £940 million and that is not allowing anything for the value of the site or any possible overruns there may be on the contract. The Government announcement by the Minister yesterday on Question Time that there would be an independent evaluation of the stadium seems to be a smokescreen given what he said this morning. Fianna Fáil intends to push ahead with the building process, irrespective of the cost to the taxpayer. It will do this despite the warnings of the Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, in the House last night.

Last night's debate highlighted the gulf that exists between parties in Government and the major contradiction that still exists regarding the treatment of the stadium. The Minister assured the House last night that the stadium project “is not being provided at the expense of other more worthy projects”, but the problem is that the Minister was followed a few minutes later by the Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, who completely contradicted him. He said that “Abbotstown can only proceed by displacing other projects”. It will not be provided at the expense of other projects, according to the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, but it can only proceed at the expense of other projects, according to the Minister of State, Deputy Molloy.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Are they both in the same Government?

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  They spoke one after the other. What is going on? What kind of con job is being attempted here? The Minister is trying to pull the wool over the House's eyes in regard to the cost and about the evaluation. He seems to have codded the Progressive Democrats as well about this project. The Minister went on radio this morning and gave a different reason for the evaluation of the project. He said that because of the public furore that has been caused, they are now looking at all the costs.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  The Deputy only looks at the costs, not at the benefits.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  It is not my evaluation, it is the Minister's. He will have an evaluation of the costs so that the public furore will cease but he has no intention of doing anything about the costs.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  So that people will see the benefits.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  The comments made by the Minister this morning – I admit that he may not be held totally responsible for the remarks he made because he seemed to be in the advanced stages of hysteria – beg the obvious questions, who was calculating the costs up to now, how reliable have [657] the costs been and is the total cost even more than, in general terms, the £1 billion?

The Government would be well advised to look at what happened to the new Wembley Stadium. The costs are spiralling at Wembley. The original projection was £334 million sterling but this has now passed £700 million sterling and is still rising. The private sector, which was supporting the stadium, has pulled out because it believes the project at a cost of £700 million is not viable and that there will not be sufficient international games played there to generate the revenue necessary to keep the stadium going.

Yesterday a Minister in the British Government refused to bail out a project saying it was [658] time the developers of Wembley “should consider something a bit less grandiose”.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  There is no comparison.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  That is advice this Government should follow. Will the Minister not accept that the Government will spend £1 billion of taxpayers' money to create a white elephant which will not pay for itself? I predict that if the Government goes ahead it will sell the stadium within four years to the private sector at about quarter the cost, as happened the Millennium Dome in London.

Amendment put.

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Michael.
Ahern, Noel.
Andrews, David.
Ardagh, Seán.
Aylward, Liam.
Blaney, Harry.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Brennan, Matt.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Byrne, Hugh.
Callely, Ivor.
Carey, Pat.
Collins, Michael.
Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
Coughlan, Mary.
Cowen, Brian.
Cullen, Martin.
Daly, Brendan.
de Valera, Síle.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dennehy, John.
Doherty, Seán.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Fleming, Seán.
Flood, Chris.
Foley, Denis.
Fox, Mildred.
Hanafin, Mary.
Harney, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Jacob, Joe.
Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kelleher, Billy.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P.
Kitt, Tom.
Lenihan, Brian.
Lenihan, Conor.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McDaid, James.
McGennis, Marian.
McGuinness, John J.
Moffatt, Thomas.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Seán.
Reynolds, Albert.
Roche, Dick.
Ryan, Eoin.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Wade, Eddie.
Wallace, Dan.
Wallace, Mary.
Wright, G. V.

Allen, Bernard.
Barrett, Seán.
Bell, Michael.
Belton, Louis J.
Boylan, Andrew.
Bradford, Paul.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Burke, Ulick.
Carey, Donal.
Connaughton, Paul.
Cosgrave, Michael.
Coveney, Simon.
Crawford, Seymour.
Creed, Michael.
Currie, Austin.
D'Arcy, Michael.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
Dukes, Alan.
Enright, Thomas.
Farrelly, John.
Finucane, Michael.
Fitzgerald, Frances.
Flanagan, Charles.
Gilmore, Éamon.
Gormley, John.
Hayes, Brian.
Higgins, Jim.
Higgins, Michael. Hogan, Philip.[659]

Howlin, Brendan.
Kenny, Enda.
McCormack, Pádraic.
McDowell, Derek.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Olivia.
Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
Naughten, Denis.
Neville, Dan.
Noonan, Michael.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Owen, Nora.
[660] Penrose, William.
Perry, John.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Reynolds, Gerard.
Ring, Michael.
Ryan, Seán.
Sargent, Trevor.
Shatter, Alan.
Sheehan, Patrick.
Shortall, Róisín.
Spring, Dick.
Stagg, Emmet.
Stanton, David.
Timmins, Billy.
Upton, Mary.
Wall, Jack.

Amendment declared carried.

Question put: “That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.”

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Michael.
Ahern, Noel.
Andrews, David.
Ardagh, Seán.
Aylward, Liam.
Blaney, Harry.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Brennan, Matt.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Byrne, Hugh.
Callely, Ivor.
Carey, Pat.
Collins, Michael.
Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
Coughlan, Mary.
Cowen, Brian.
Cullen, Martin.
Daly, Brendan.
de Valera, Síle.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dennehy, John.
Doherty, Seán.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Fleming, Seán.
Flood, Chris.
Foley, Denis.
Fox, Mildred.
Hanafin, Mary.
Harney, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Jacob, Joe.
Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kelleher, Billy.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P.
Kitt, Tom.
Lenihan, Brian.
Lenihan, Conor.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McDaid, James.
McGennis, Marian.
McGuinness, John J.
Moffatt, Thomas.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Malley, Desmond.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Seán.
Reynolds, Albert.
Roche, Dick.
Ryan, Eoin.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Treacy, Noel.
Wade, Eddie.
Wallace, Dan.
Wallace, Mary.
Wright, G. V.

Allen, Bernard.
Barrett, Seán.
Belton, Louis J.
Boylan, Andrew.
Bradford, Paul.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).Burke, Ulick.
Carey, Donal.
Connaughton, Paul.
Cosgrave, Michael.
Coveney, Simon.
Crawford, Seymour.
Creed, Michael.
Currie, Austin. Deenihan, Jimmy.[661]

Dukes, Alan.
Enright, Thomas.
Farrelly, John.
Finucane, Michael.
Fitzgerald, Frances.
Flanagan, Charles.
Gilmore, Éamon.
Gormley, John.
Hayes, Brian.
Higgins, Jim.
Higgins, Michael.
Hogan, Philip.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kenny, Enda.
McCormack, Pádraic.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Olivia.
Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
Naughten, Denis.
[662] Neville, Dan.
Noonan, Michael.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Owen, Nora.
Penrose, William.
Perry, John.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Reynolds, Gerard.
Ring, Michael.
Ryan, Seán.
Sargent, Trevor.
Shatter, Alan.
Sheehan, Patrick.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stagg, Emmet.
Stanton, David.
Timmins, Billy.
Upton, Mary.
Wall, Jack.

Question declared carried.


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