Thursday, 8 December 2005
Financial Resolution No. 5: General (Resumed).
John O'Donoghue (Minister, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Kerry South, Fianna Fail)
Ireland is on track to provide state-of-the-art facilities for sports men and women to train and prepare for competition at the highest level. A range of facilities will also be available to the public and the training needs of more than 30 governing bodies of sport. Irish sport deserves no less. Looking forward to the run-up to the London Olympics of 2012, Ireland can become an attractive option as a training base for international Olympic teams. Irish Olympic hopefuls will have excellent training facilities available to them at home and they will benefit from the transfer of expertise through contact with their international competitors.
The sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, plays a crucial role in the development of the quality sports infrastructure needed to enhance participation and improved performance in sport. Under the programme, funding is allocated towards the provision of sports facilities at national, regional and local level and is the primary vehicle for promoting the development of sports and recreational facilities in Ireland.
Since 1998 the Government has allocated funding amounting to €386 million under the programme to more than 4,900 projects to provide badly needed facilities and equipment in virtually every parish, village, town and city throughout Ireland. We have an ambitious swimming pool programme in conjunction with the local authorities whereby 18 new pools have been built and seven are under construction while a further 30 are moving through various stages of planning, leading to construction.
The unprecedented level of funding for sport, which will continue in 2006, has increased the quantity and transformed the quality of sports facilities available countrywide. Important facilities, such as swimming pools, dressing rooms, pitches, floodlighting, modern sports equipment and so on, have allowed schemes to be developed to get people of all ages and from all backgrounds more involved in sport.
The budget for 2006, together with increased Estimate allocations for next year, will benefit the tourism sector. The major issue facing Irish tourism is competitiveness. The budget for 2006, with an emphasis on sustaining order in the public finances, minimising inflation and avoiding increases in direct taxes and excise duties, will support the Irish tourism industry in developing value for money and meeting international competition. I welcome a number of measures in the budget which impact favourably on tourism. The availability of accelerated capital allowance in the past has been of critical importance in encouraging investment and the provision of tourism accommodation in particular in hotels. The number of hotel rooms has almost doubled from 26,000 in 1996 to approximately 45,000 at present. Our hotel stock is among the most modern in Europe.