Thursday, 30 November 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
37. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the latest position in regard to Government funding for intercounty GAA footballers and hurlers; if the Government will make money available for the purpose of player welfare; the way this money will be administered and distributed; the amount that will be made available; when this is expected to happen; if he has met with the GAA and the Gaelic Players Association to discuss the matter; the outcome of such discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40817/06]
Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism (Mr. O’Donoghue): I have had a number of meetings with both the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) and the GAA, most recently last month, at which player welfare issues for inter-county players were discussed.
At these meetings and in subsequent letters to both the GPA and the GAA, I have set out the position of the Government on this issue. Firstly, it is entirely a matter for the GAA, as the Governing Body for Gaelic Games, to determine whether or not it wishes to embrace professionalism in any form. The Government has no wish to influence this decision in any way. However, the Government for reasons of sporting policy and priorities is not prepared to make public funds available to finance “pay for play”. The Government commends the shared aspiration of both the GAA and the GPA to address player welfare concerns in a spirit of generosity and mutual respect and recent comments by the President of the GAA reaffirm his resolve to deal with the matter.
It is a matter for the GAA in the first instance to determine how it will meet the cost of addressing player welfare needs. I have already indicated to the GAA and the GPA that I would be prepared to respond positively to a request from the GAA for assistance in managing the additional financial impacts on the Association of the cost of enhanced player welfare services. In that regard, I have suggested that one approach might be for the Government to commit to a programme of investment in the provision of appropriate training facilities for county teams — which the GAA has acknowledged to be a particular priority. The parameters for such a scheme are clear cut — enhanced investment under the Sports Capital Programme over a period of years but there may also be other options worthy of consideration. However, it would be premature to lock into a particular financing mechanism at this stage until agreement has been reached between the GAA and the GPA on arrangements to enhance player welfare and the additional costs arising for the GAA have been established. I hope that the negotiations currently underway between the GAA and the GPA will reach a successful conclusion.
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