Dáil debates

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

8:00 am

Photo of Tom McEllistrimTom McEllistrim (Kerry North, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this important issue. The International Children's Games and Cultural Festival, ICG, is an annual sports event that has evolved since its inception in 1968 in Celje, Slovenia into the largest multi-sport youth event in the world. More than 30,000 children have taken part in the games since 1968 with, on average, between 1,500 and 2,000 athletes aged between 12 and 15 years participating at the annual event in selected host cities and towns throughout the world. Upwards of between 80 and 90 cities from all five continents participate annually. Athletics and swimming are the core sports involved and the host city is also required to offer participating cities between six and eight other sporting disciplines in accordance with international governing body rules. In addition to the athletes, approximately 2,500 overseas visitors attend the games as part of the extended visiting city delegations, team coaches and family members.

Tralee has been participating in the ICG since 2005 when it received an invite to attend the games hosted in Coventry. Subsequently, teams from Tralee have participated annually in venues as diverse as Bangkok, Reykjavik, San Francisco, Athens and Bahrain. The experience of attending the games has led to strong support locally to put forward the case to host the 2015 games in Kerry. As part of the initial campaign for Kerry to host the games, the executive committee of the ICG was invited to undertake a fact-finding visit to Tralee in April 2008. Letters of intent to host the games were issued by Kerry County Council and Tralee Town Council following the visit. A feasibility study was commissioned in 2010 to determine the financial implications of hosting the games in Kerry in addition to assessing the existing facilities. The study has shown that Kerry has the capacity to host the international event in 2015 and has indicated that a total cash cost of €2 million would be required to successfully bid for and host the event. The support of the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport is seen as critical to the process and the local organising committee is seeking up to €1 million from the Department and Government, while undertaking to raise the other €1 million through the corporate sector and other means.

Kerry has a long established reputation of hosting major international sports events. Its reputation as an international tourism destination highlights its capacity to organise and host international events. Kerry has the largest accommodation stock outside of Dublin while possessing a rich cultural and heritage tourism product range that will facilitate the cultural element of the games.

Recent announcements concerning the new sports complex development at the Institute of Technology, Tralee will provide the county with a top-class sports hub to centralise the planning, organisation and hosting of international sports events. The proposed sports complex for the Institute of Technology, Tralee would provide a modern sporting hub to host the 2015 games. A decision to invest in the hosting of the 2015 International Children's Games in Kerry, with Tralee as the central hub, would provide a means of creating and generating considerable economic impact for the region and should be strongly supported. The Kerry ICG games of 2015 would have the capacity to generate an overall economic impact for Kerry of between €5.6 million and €7.8 million against an expenditure on games preparation and hosting of approximately €2 million, based on 100 teams taking part as outlined in the feasibility study. The event has the scope to attract more than 6,000 attendees, resulting in approximately 20,000 bed nights for the region during the course of the games, which is usually between five and six days. Potential returns to the Exchequer, based on participation rates ranging from 80 to 100 cities, would amount to €1.68 million rising to €2.326 million.

In conclusion, bringing the International Children's Games to Kerry would be a sound investment in the short term and the long term, generating considerable Exchequer returns, providing a platform for tourism development in the region and the country, and leaving a lasting legacy for sports participation and the hosting of international sports events in the country. It may not be the Olympics as we know it, but for the children of the world it is understood as a mini-Olympics. It would provide the opportunity for those in many other Irish cities and towns to join their international brothers and sisters and participate in a truly worldwide sporting and cultural event in Ireland in 2015. The Government should support the overall project and the bid to host the 2015 games wholeheartedly as a project with the potential to bring considerable benefits to Tralee, the county of Kerry and Ireland. I call on the Minister of State to look favourably on the project.

Photo of Seán ConnickSeán Connick (Wexford, Fianna Fail)
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I am taking this matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Support, Deputy Mary Hanafin. I thank Deputy McEllistrim for raising the matter. The Minister is supportive of the efforts of the tourism state agencies and the national governing bodies of sport to attract international events here, subject to an assessment of the costs and benefits involved in any State financial support. Since taking up office, the Minister, Deputy Hanafin, has been involved in several meetings and discussions relating to such sports events.

In accordance with the provisions of section 8(1) of the National Tourism Development Authority Act 2003, consideration of possible support towards such events is a day-to-day matter for Fáilte Ireland. Fáilte Ireland administers the Government's international sports tourism initiative, which has been in operation for ten years. The key objectives in sponsoring events through this initiative are to secure significant worldwide media coverage and tourism marketing opportunities for Ireland and secure significant bed nights and economic benefits for the region in which the event is taking place.

Under the initiative, Fáilte Ireland has provided sponsorship to several significant events including the Irish Open Golf Championship and the World Rally Championship. The initiative was also a key factor in the hosting of the 2006 Ryder Cup in Ireland. Fáilte Ireland also supported the very successful stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race in Galway during 2009. This event exceeded all expectations in terms of visitor numbers and economic benefits, to the extent that Galway has been selected as the finishing venue for the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012. We greatly look forward to welcoming the Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle next year. It will be a great honour for Ireland to host one of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the world.

With regard to a bid to host the International Children's Games in 2015, the Minister, Deputy Hanafin, met with Deputy McEllistrim in July along with representatives of Tralee International Children's Games Limited, the body seeking to place the bid to host the games in Tralee in 2015.

The Minister, Deputy Hanafin, suggested that the organisers should meet with the Department and Fáilte Ireland to discuss the matter further. A subsequent meeting was arranged by the Department, which took place on Monday, 8 November. The meeting was attended by a representative of Tralee International Children's Games Limited, the operations manager for Fáilte Ireland south west and an official from the Department. At the meeting, Fáilte Ireland provided details of the basis on which it assesses the tourism potential of proposed sporting events. Fáilte Ireland is currently examining what supports may be available towards assisting with the bid process and will advise Tralee International Children's Games Limited in this regard. A further meeting will take place later this week directly between Fáilte Ireland and Tralee International Children's Games Limited to progress the matter.