Thursday, 30 November 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism (Mr. O’Donoghue): The Government recognises that investment in sport can yield very tangible returns in improved fitness and health for individuals which can help combat obesity and result in a consequent reduction in the demand on health services. The unprecedented Government investment of €900m in sport since 1997 has enabled the development of modern well equipped and well managed sporting facilities throughout the country supported by a wide range of programmes which are having a real benefit to our communities. The recently published Abridged Estimates of Public Expenditure for 2007 provides for a total budget of over €316 million for sport, an increase of 30% over 2006.
The 2007 budget for the Irish Sports Council (ISC) has increased by 20% or over €8 million to more than €49 million. This continued increased level of funding ensures that the ISC can continue to embark on initiatives and programmes which increase participation in sport and physical recreation by people of all ages in the country.
Under the ISC’s latest strategy “Building Sport for Life” 2006-2008, the Council will focus its efforts on increasing the number of people participating in sport and physical activity and its stated objectives include:
The ISC has created a new Participation Unit to implement its plans for increasing participation. The Unit will ensure the national rollout of the Local Sports Partnerships network in order to deliver greater access to sport for all. It will work with specific national governing bodies to deliver large-scale participation programmes. The Unit will target sections of the community for intervention programmes such as the existing Women in Sport and Sport for Older People initiatives.
The Council will facilitate the creation of a sustainable structure to ensure the strategic development of sport by providing resources to National Governing Bodies and Local Sports Partnerships who are charged with providing evidence of increased levels of participation across a range of sports. It will strengthen its relationship with the National Coaching and Training Centre in order to encourage governing bodies and sports partnerships to develop coaching infrastructures nationally and locally.
The Buntús Programme is also continuing to be rolled out by the ISC through the Local Sports Partnership network to primary schools. The Programme aims to support the primary PE curriculum by providing equipment, resource cards and training to teachers and allows teachers and introductory level coaches introduce sport to children in a safe and fun way. A new initiative “Buntús Start” aimed at pre-school children is also being implemented by the Sports Council.
With regard to the provision of quality sports and recreational facilities throughout the country, the total 2007 capital budget for grants for sports facilities, including swimming pools, will be almost €88 million. This will be used to meet payments in respect of commitments already made as well as those to be made in 2007 under the Sports Capital and Local Authority Swimming Pool Programmes.
Between 1998 and 2006, a total of €472m has been allocated to over 5,755 projects throughout the country under the Sport Capital Programme.  Under the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme 23 swimming pool projects have been completed since 2000 and a further 15 are currently under construction at locations throughout the country. The Deputy will be aware that the task force on obesity established by the Department of Health and Children and which published its report in May 2005 was chaired by Mr. John Treacy, Chief Executive of the Irish Sports Council.
I am satisfied that the programmes provided by the Irish Sports Council to increase participation together with the improved sporting facilities now in place throughout the country as a result of Government investment are providing real solutions to the problem of obesity.
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