Dáil debates

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Financial Resolutions 2022 - Financial Resolution No. 6: General: Financial Resolution (Resumed)


6:25 pm

Photo of Chris AndrewsChris Andrews (Dublin Bay South, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

Last week, in this Chamber, I raised the urgent need for intervention for the sporting community to ease the enormous burden that sports clubs, sporting facilities and swimming pools are currently facing. I welcome the announcement of a fund of €35 million to help sporting communities to deal with rising energy costs, which are an issue for floodlights, heating and, particularly, swimming pools. Like everything, the devil is in the detail. We need to make sure that this funding is prioritised for community facilities, with inclusion at the core. We cannot allow a repeat of previous years, where State funding to support swimming pools ended up in the pockets of five-star hotels and high-end facilities that could not be any further removed from the communities they are based in. Some of these luxury swimming pools charge annual membership fees of €1,500 per year and refuse access to children. I am looking for a commitment that no public swimming pools will close this winter as a result of the high energy costs. They are important. As the Minister said, we cannot develop a national swimming strategy and, at the same time, allow pools to close over winter. We have to do everything we can to ensure that this important sporting infrastructure is maintained through the winter.

This budget represents yet another missed opportunity to support the grassroots community. We need an urgent step change in how the Government supports grassroots. The grassroots provide the foundation for all our international achievements. While increased funding for high-performance athletes is welcome and is long overdue, this must go hand-in-hand with increased supports for the grassroots of Irish sports that ensure young people have the opportunity to reach the highest levels of sports participation. We should not allow a huge funding gap to develop between elite and grassroots sport. England invested in winning medals to the detriment of grassroots sports. It is important that that is not replicated here. Sinn Féin's proposal recognises the importance of giving support directly to those involved in grassroots Irish sport.

The impact of sport lies in creating a strong and healthy society. We recognise that no child should face a barrier to sport participation due to costs, and that families should not be forced to quit sports as the household bills skyrocket. Sport is very important to everybody, for our mental health, physical health and emotional health. We must ensure that we protect it and invest in it. Our leisure card scheme would provide that support directly to families, and benefit community-based sports groups. The leisure card, to the value of €130 annually, is aimed at making a wide range of activities affordable to every child.

It is very important that the provision of special classes is in the local schools in the local community. The large established schools in Dublin, in Dublin 6 and 6W, must now be encouraged and pushed to open up special classes as a matter of urgency. We bus children out of their communities. For example, I believe that €170,000 per day is spent on taxis and buses to send children with special needs and additional needs out of their community in south inner city Dublin. This is something we cannot accept. We must invest in that area. This budget does not do that. Money is being promised, and the funding for the SNAs is very welcome, but the reality is that unless the schools are pushed and encouraged to open up the classes then we will not have an all-inclusive education system in Ireland.


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