Thursday, 24 March 2022
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
80. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide information on the recent announcement by his Department on increased support for a programme (details supplied); the form of support that it is likely to take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15460/22]
It was excellent to learn of the funding awarded to the GAA global games development programme in recent weeks. I understand funding of €900,000 has been allocated to 110 clubs around the world. I would appreciate if the Minister of State could provide more information on this recent announcement.
The global games development fund is a matching funding partnership between my Department and the GAA that supports community-orientated GAA activities abroad. Established in 2012, it has been remarkably successful in the development of Gaelic games internationally and benefits hundreds of Irish communities abroad. It has grown from 14 projects in 2013 to over 100 projects this year. Funding from the Government's emigrant support programme has grown in response to that demand from €45,000 in 2013 to €200,000 this year.
The value of the fund was amply demonstrated in the response to Covid, when our GAA partner clubs and networks, along with our Irish immigration centres, became the backbone for the delivery of assistance and support to emigrants, including the Government’s dedicated Covid response fund. It is worth noting the incredible role played by many members of the GAA in supporting the Covid response.
A major review of the operation and objectives of the programme was carried out over the past year, taking into account the experience gained during the pandemic. I was pleased to announce a renewed partnership agreement when I met the president of the GAA and his officials in Croke Park on 8 March. This refocuses our support for grassroots activity, particularly by small community clubs. It increases the focus on youth involvement, as well as sponsoring regional tournaments that are a showcase for the games at international level. We will continue to develop the programme to reflect the changing patterns.
Administratively, we agreed to reinforce the role of Croke Park’s central management and strengthen our financial control procedures in line with the growth of the programme. Projects are identified through an open call mechanism conducted by GAA headquarters. The applications are screened at regional level by the GAA and funding decisions are taken jointly by the GAA and my Department. As our communities abroad emerge from the shadow of Covid, the Government stands ready through a strengthened programme to help them rebuild the infrastructure and activities.
I thank the Minister of State for his response. I know from speaking to many people of Mayo descent living abroad that they take pride in the GAA clubs in their respective domiciles and the ongoing links these clubs provide to Ireland. GAA is in the blood of many county people and our conversations never drift too far from Gaelic games. The €900,000 global games development fund is going a long way to delivering projects abroad. It is a useful fund. Is there potential to expand to initiatives beyond sport, such as Creative Ireland or similar schemes? Our people hold their heritage with pride and, ahead of the next St. Patrick's Day, it would be great to see an expansion of the work with our diaspora.
We are always looking to expand and see what involvement we can have. What we are doing in the GAA provides a good template for that. Part of the programme we are looking at supporting across the diaspora is the re-energising and re-rolling out of things like the St. Patrick's Day activities and festivals. They were an integral part of the community network that was badly affected by two years in which those programmes could not be held. My Department is committed to looking at how we can develop a range of supports for them in a similar vein to what has been done with the GAA.
This global games development fund has significantly grown, as the Minister of State mentioned, from 2013, when just over 14 clubs were funded. I understand the fund contributes to one-off events and to activities lasting much longer than that. These projects are invaluable in supporting and nurturing a sense of Irish community. Many have created important links between global Ireland and the local community. I commend the Minister of State on that work. Does he envisage that fund will increase over the coming years?
The Deputy made an important point. One of the key things we tried to emphasise in the redesign of this fund, in conjunction with the GAA, was to move away from once-off sponsorship and to a programme of ongoing development, particularly in respect of trying to strengthen clubs at grassroots level and the skill level to benefit clubs. This refocusing is designed to give a much longer-term benefit to clubs on the ground, in contrast to some of the previous once-off sponsorship.
We will continue to review this programme. It has been incredibly successful and I was pleased we were able to increase the support provided for it. It is the type of programme that is at the heart of where we see this development and a role model for involvement by ourselves and the GAA in the diaspora context.