The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe TD, and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring TD, are today (Thursday 5th November) holding a consultation conference to seek the views of sports stakeholders on the issues and challenges facing Irish sport in the years to come. This is with a view to developing a National Sports Policy Framework, which will be the first of its kind for 20 years.

The new National Sports Policy will provide the framework for sport in Ireland over the next ten years and will set the agenda for the newly established Sport Ireland.  Among the topics to be discussed today are: increasing participation in sport, volunteers in sport, high performance sports, the future development of the National Sports Campus and regional and local facilities, among others. In developing the framework, consideration will also be given to where the focus of Government spending in sport should be and the wider cross-sectoral role of sport in the economy, education, health, tourism and other areas.

Following today’s discussions, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport will develop a public consultation paper, to which the sports sector, stakeholders in the public and private sector and the general public will be invited to respond. This will feed into the National Sports Policy’s development.

Speaking at the consultation today, Minister Donohoe said: ‘Today’s discussions are all about hearing the views of those who are at the heart of sport in Ireland and finding out where they think the challenges and, indeed, the opportunities in sport lie in the years ahead. My priority, as Minister for Sport, is to promote maximum participation in sport, including among smaller sports and disadvantaged groups and women.  We are making progress in these areas but we can, and we will, do more. This year, Budget 2016, saw an increase of 40% in our overall sports programme allocation, to €126 million. This will allow our elite athletes to be better supported, a new National Physical Activity Plan to be implemented, sports programmes to be targeted where they are most needed and our Sports Capital and Local Authority Swimming Pools programmes to allocate resources that will better serve our communities’.

Minister Ring said: ‘One of the topics for discussion here today is on increasing participation in sport, across all ages and groups. Last week I hosted a very successful Women in Sport Conference which highlighted the good work that is happening through Sport Ireland’s Women in Sport programme. We must be resilient in our efforts to close the gender gap in sport and to make sure that everyone, from all walks of life, knows the benefits, both body and mind, of getting involved in sport’.

“As funding becomes available, we are proceeding with the development of additional facilities at the Sports Campus on an incremental basis. A whole range of facilities have opened in recent years at the Campus and when complete, it will provide a first-class environment in which athletes at all levels from over 20 sports will be able to train and compete. This is especially key to supporting our elite athletes, such as those preparing for the Rio Games 2016, as they train to compete on the world stage. This policy, which is being developed, will also allow us to look at the existing structures, programmes and infrastructure that are in place for recreational and high performance sport and to consider if there are ways to administer these more effectively so that we can deliver the very best for sport in Ireland over the next ten years.”

Minister Donohoe continued: ‘We will also have an opportunity to explore how sport is financed in the future and to look at where the focus of future Government funding for sport should be targeted to best effect. We will be looking at how we can better encourage organisations to generate additional commercial investment, be that through philanthropy or other fundraising means. I am very keen that all of us who are involved in Irish sport continue to work together and engage productively on matters that are important to sport in Ireland.  We have a mutual interest in seeing sport develop to its full potential and this process will guide us in that direction’.

Following the Sports Policy consultation today, Ministers Donohoe and Ring will attend the first meeting of the new Board of Sport Ireland.