Tuesday, 5 November 2013
Commercial Rates Issues
Often, politicians and journalists do not agree. That can often happen for valid reasons on both sides. Journalists can be overly critical of politicians at times, sometimes unfairly so. Martin Breheny from the Irish Independent is a journalist for whom I have high regard. Most of the time, he reports on sport and does a very good job. His article last Wednesday was particularly damning of the inaction of politicians in dealing with a situation which has manifested itself with the GAA, IRFU and FAI. These associations have been hit with rates bills of the order of millions. I attended a briefing on job creation in sport which was also attended by the general secretary of the GAA, Páraic Duffy, the president of the FAI, John Delaney, and others. The figure for Croke Park has risen from €600,000 to €1.5 million. The figure is similar for the Aviva Stadium. That is totally ridiculous and unacceptable. It reflects a lack of political will to deal with it.
The GAA is an amateur organisation. It is appalling to think that there will be a €1 million euro annual increase in its rates bill for Croke Park. This must be dealt with urgently and the uncertainty surrounding the issue must be cleared up by Government. It has been dragging on for a number of weeks. It was brought to my attention at that briefing which took place about seven or eight weeks ago. I agree with everything Martin Breheny said in his article last week. Letters from senior Ministers to other Ministers are frankly a joke. It is not that they do not meet each other. They meet each other every day of the week. The uncertainty felt at the headquarters of the GAA will percolate down to other clubs which have members' bars and which will be hit with this astronomical increase in rates.
I am from County Clare which had a very positive experience in Croke Park this year. There are many other counties that have won All-Ireland championships and had positive experiences in Croke Park. Croke Park is a major income generator for north County Dublin and the entire city of Dublin on several weekends during the year. It does not just relate to All-Ireland football and hurling finals but semi-finals, quarter finals, Leinster finals and concerts. There were a number of events last year relating to the vetting council when it was here. It is appalling to think that a voluntary sporting organisation like the GAA is facing this type of financial uncertainty. It is not acceptable for a Government that prides itself on promoting sport and that has done much to promote sport to allow this type of uncertainty to continue. I raise issues on the Adjournment on a regular basis and I know the standard answer. It is no disrespect to the Minister of State with responsibility for small business who is here. I saw the response that Deputy O'Mahony received when he raised this matter during a Topical Issue debate in the Dáil.