Senior Ministers lobbied for State grants for local clubs

Some successful projects backed by Ministers scored poorly in internal assessment process

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe: appealed for funding on behalf of three clubs applying for State capital grants in his Dublin Central constituency. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe: appealed for funding on behalf of three clubs applying for State capital grants in his Dublin Central constituency. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

A number of grant applications from sports clubs that were supported by senior Government Ministers secured State funding, despite scoring poorly in department assessments.

Correspondence from several Ministers in relation to applications made to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport scheme were obtained under the Freedom of Information (FoI)Act.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe in April appealed for funding on behalf of three clubs applying for State capital grants in his Dublin Central constituency. He asked then Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Patrick O’Donovan to “carefully examine” an application from Stella Maris football club, and “consider it for a grant later this year”.

The football club was allocated the full €25,000 grant it applied for, despite scoring poorly in the department’s assessment. The analysis noted the Drumcondra-based club was “not in a disadvantaged area” and had already received more than €200,000 in sports grants over the last decade.

Mr Donohoe also made representations for Arbour Hill Boxing Club, which secured a €150,000 grant to refurbish its clubhouse, and Sheriff Youth Club, which was allocated €44,811. In the 2017 round of the scheme all clubs with valid applications secured some funding, which ranged from €500 to €150,000.

Favourable consideration

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney lobbied Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Brendan Griffin for “favourable consideration” to be given to a large number of applications from Cork-based clubs in late July 2017.

Mr Coveney made representations on behalf of Cork Boat Club, which was allocated €32,500 towards the improvement of its facilities. The club’s application scored poorly and notes from the department said the project would only “have a minor impact on participation/performance”.

The assessment stated the club was not in a disadvantaged area and had not proposed a licence agreement for sharing the facilities with other groups, which are two of the criteria applications are judged on.

Mr Coveney also supported an application from Nemo Rangers GAA club to fund a redevelopment of its playing pitches. The club was allocated €33,500, despite the department’s assessment grading the application poorly, with low scores across several criteria.

While serving as taoiseach Enda Kenny made representations on behalf of Achill GAA club, which had applied for a grant of €120,000. The club, which is in Mr Kenny’s Mayo constituency, was awarded €80,000 under the capital programme.

Final decision

The final decision to allocate grant funding is made by the Minister. However, a spokesman for the department said “no changes were made at ministerial level from the grants recommended at official level”.

The spokesman said grants are awarded on the basis of an “agreed formula” of the graded assessment and the amount available to each county on a per capita basis.

Other senior Ministers who made representations on behalf of local sports clubs last year included Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Education Richard Bruton, Minister for Employment Affairs Regina Doherty, and former minister for finance Michael Noonan.