Thursday, 13 October 2005
Question 17: To ask the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the carrying out of a national audit of sports facilities scheduled for 2006-07; if guidelines have been issued to the inter-agency steering group regarding the scope of such an audit and if it will include school facilities; if such an audit will be used as a baseline year to measure progress in the targeted provision of facilities for those who need them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28287/05]
Question 20: To ask the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a nationwide audit of all sporting facilities at primary and secondary schools will be requested by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28090/05]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 10, 17 and 20 together.
An inter-agency steering group comprising representatives from my Department, the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Department of Finance, in addition to representatives of the Irish Sports Council, Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Limited and the County and City Managers' Association has been established to oversee the development of a sports facilities strategy.
One of the first tasks to be addressed by the group has been to define the scope of the proposed audit of sports facilities. In doing so it consulted with the Sports Council for Northern Ireland, which has recently completed work on its own audit of facilities.
It has been decided to divide the work into two distinct phases, initially concentrating on the establishment of a comprehensive database of national and regional sports facilities with the second phase focusing on sports facilities at local level. This approach is based on an immediate need to assemble data on existing key strategic facilities which is vital to the formation of an effective long-term strategy. This element of the overall project will be supervised by a sub-group which will be assisted in its work by a representative from the Central Statistics Office experienced in data collection and questionnaire design.
It is likely therefore that obtaining information on sports facilities located at third level educational facilities will form part of the first phase while information on sports facilities located at post-primary schools will form part of the second phase of the audit. While it will be a challenging task to carry out such a comprehensive exercise, it will be of enormous value in establishing the level of need that still exists in the sports sector and in helping to determine future priorities.
We cannot have an effective national sports policy unless there is a national sports audit. The programme for Government for 2002 promised a national sports audit and in June it was announced that one would be carried out immediately. We have still not received it. How long does the Minister envisage the audit taking?
I carried out a survey of primary schools in this country in May. Out of 3,500, some 1,400 schools replied to me and 70% of schools stated they had no PE hall. The information is available to the Joint Committee on Arts, Sports, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. When will this audit be completed and how long will it take to complete? Will the Minister provide the resources to ensure it can be completed as soon as possible? I see no reason there should be a long delay.
Carrying out an effective and comprehensive national audit of local facilities is a major undertaking in respect of complexity and time. The Sports Council for Northern Ireland embarked on a similar exercise in recent years and it took two to three years to complete the task. In total 1,900 individual sites were identified containing some 10,000 sports facilities. In the past seven years in this jurisdiction we have invested €386 million in almost 5,000 facilities. Many facilities existed before that, although there were not as many as we would wish. This audit will take time and although we will put resources into carrying this out it would be foolish to think it can be done overnight.