Thursday, 30 November 2006
Sport and Recreational Development.
Question 7: To ask the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will report on the progress made in carrying out a national audit of sports facilities and services; if this audit will be completed by June 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40835/06]
I was not here for that reply, but I will ask a question on the assumption that the reply given was what I anticipated. The programme for Government in 2002 suggested that a nationwide audit of sports facilities would be a priority within this Government's term of office. It now appears that this audit will not be completed by the next general election. In essence, the programme for Government has not been met and the Minister will go before the electorate without having carried out the audit as promised.
Is the Minister aware that audits have been successfully carried out in major cities across the UK? This has enabled them to target the type of sporting investment that is needed to promote sport among young people. In the absence of a proper audit of sports facilities, we are throwing away money and not giving a good opportunity in life to our children.
Deputy Gogarty has raised this issue on a number of occasions. A working group has been established to oversee the detailed work of the audit. The group held a number of meetings.
The sub-group has decided that the audit will be undertaken in a number of places to speed up the availability of information. The experience in the North was that an audit of this nature could take up to two and a half years. Work is under way and we want a long-term strategic plan for the provision of sports facilities throughout the country. As part of that process, a national audit of local sports facilities is under way.
Does the Minister agree that the groups that will do poorly in an audit are in locations that have been subject to recent development? Deputy Gogarty's constituency and mine are examples of that. With the time lag involved, we must play catch-up as a consequence.
Was an audit of facilities carried out by the sports partnerships? Is there a deal of information out there already? The last reply I got to this question was that it would be a difficult process and that national facilities would be audited first, followed by regional and local facilities. However, local facilities have the most direct impact on communities. It often takes a while for a community to be developed enough to raise the matching funding, which creates its own time lag.
I agree with the Deputy that facilities are still required in many parishes across the country. That is why we are continuing with the sports capital programme as aggressively as possible. The reason the audit is taking such a time is the amount of work involved. All the facilities across the country have to be included in the audit. They include not just key national facilities but, for example, GAA grounds, rugby and soccer grounds, university sports campuses, local authority sport centres, synthetic athletic tracks and swimming pools, as well as facilities in primary and post-primary schools. In addition there are the facilities which have benefited under the sports capital programme. One has to identify as well facilities provided by voluntary organisations as well as those available in the community generally which might have received grant assistance from other Departments.
We are conducting the audit in two phases and trying to complete it as quickly as we can while obtaining as much information as possible on key national and regional facilities. I have indicated to Deputy Wall in reply to an earlier question on the London Olympics in 2012 that we are dealing with that separately and distinctly.
We have only so many staff to carry out a function such as this. Naturally, if we had a plethora of people, it could be done more quickly. We have to operate within our resources, using the staff that are available to us. We are doing this as quickly as we can.