Funding will be pro rata - Ring
Sports grants:Minister of State for Transport, Tourism and Sport Michael Ring has made a commitment to distribute the imminent round of grants from the Sports Capital Programme equitably throughout the country. The funding, which will be announced in the coming weeks, has often been used as a flagrant political tool to aid projects in the constituency of the sports minister of the day.
But in the course of a wide-ranging interview in today’s Irish Times, Ring says: “I will make this very clear – I won’t be doing what other ministers did. Each county will get whatever is agreed pro-rata.”
The Sports Capital Programme has been cut off at the knees in recent years due to the recession and it has lain dormant with no new funding made available since 2008. In better times, grants worth up to €85m were handed out annually to sports clubs throughout the country but it has been significantly reduced this time around with only €30m to be distributed.
Applications have been made to the fund since it was launched at the end of March for projects that will take almost €370m to build.
First introduced in 1999, the fund has a notorious history of being used by ministers to bring funding to their home constituency out of proportion with the population statistics. In 2000 when Jim McDaid was the Minister for Sport, Donegal (population 137,000) received funding of £3.8m while Cork (population 447,000) was given £2.9m.
More recently, Kerry John O’Donoghue oversaw grants totalling €1.5m to projects in his own constituency of Kerry South, which easily outstripped whole counties such as Louth, Offaly and Roscommon. Indeed, between 2006 and 2006, O’Donoghue’s own GAA club St Mary’s in the village of Cahirsiveen (population 1,200) was awarded €480,000. It was these kinds of awards that gave the programme a bad name but Mayo TD Ring says there is no chance of the same happening again this time around.
“It’s very simple,” he states. “If I give Mayo 150 per cent of their allocation here, it might come in at about €300,000 more than what they’re due. All that would do is make their eventual total something like €1.2m or €1.3m or whatever it is they would get. What would be the point of me bringing all that hassle on myself? With €18.5m worth of projects being applied for from Mayo alone? There’d be no point. I’m just going to give each county what it’s due.”
Ring came in for criticism earlier this year when €1.7m of lottery funding went to Mayo, a rise of 70 per cent. He denies that there was anything untoward.