Kenny cautioned over funding of GAA’s Páirc Uí Chaoimh

Officials warned Taoiseach that GAA gets ‘substantially’ more than other sports

GAA director general Páraic Duffy: he wrote to Taoiseach Enda Kenny  last October seeking €30 million for the Páirc Uí Chaoimh redevelopment project. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

GAA director general Páraic Duffy: he wrote to Taoiseach Enda Kenny last October seeking €30 million for the Páirc Uí Chaoimh redevelopment project. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

Thu, Jul 10, 2014, 01:04

Civil servants warned Taoiseach Enda Kenny the GAA was receiving “substantially”more State funding than other sports when Mr Kenny expressed interest in supporting the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork. The Government eventually granted €30 million towards the €70 million project, which will mean the ground being redeveloped into a 45,000-seater stadium.

Officials in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport warned late last year and earlier this year they would not be able to afford the upgrade of the stadium from their existing funds. The Government subsequently allocated additional money through a stimulus plan announced during the local and European election campaign.

Páraic Duffy, director general of the GAA, wrote to Mr Kenny last October seeking €30 million for the project. Sources in the department expressed annoyance privately over what they saw as the GAA going over the department’s head and pitching directly to the Taoiseach. However Mr Duffy’s letter, while addressed to Mr Kenny, was copied to Minister for Sport Leo Varadkar and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin.

Mr Howlin also met the Cork County Board of the GAA, along with Minister of State for Education Seán Sherlock, and indicated he was “well disposed” to the project and would consider it in the context of additional spending plans.

However, internal emails between officials in the Department of Transport, Tourism and and Sport, obtained under Freedom of Information, show annoyance at the GAA not paying them the “courtesy” of informing the department of their plans.

“Stimulus funds are a matter for the [Minister for Public Expenditure] and I understand that Cork County Board have already met with the Minister,” one email noted. “We have not been asked or given the courtesy of being informed of any request for funding from the GAA or the Cork County Board. We should emphasise that we could not possibly support a funding request of this size from the paltry allocation we receive under the SPC [sports capital grant].”

Mr Kenny, who wrote to Mr Duffy asking to be kept updated, asked the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport for more information on the proposals. He also told Mr Duffy that a redeveloped Páirc Uí Chaoimh would be important for the bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.