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Government hypocritical on sport

30 August, 2004

The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Sport, Martin Ferris TD, has claimed that the current Government is hypocritical in its attitude towards sport. Deputy Ferris was referring to statements made by Minister for Sport John O'Donoghue on the performance of Irish athletes at the Athens Olympics.

Deputy Ferris said: "Today sees the return to this country of our Olympic team. Their performance has given rise to a mixture of harsh criticism, attempts to claim credit, and groundless forecasts of future success from an assortment of Government representatives including the Minister. Let us be clear. Many of the shortcomings of our representatives are a product of lack of state support, and few of their achievements can be claimed as evidence of such support.

"This weekend also saw the culmination of the Community Games in which tens of thousands of young athletes competed in a competition that relies almost exclusively on the efforts of volunteers. State support for the games amounts to something in the region of 50c per participant and yet if any of these young people excel to the stage where they represent Ireland internationally they will all of a sudden become the subject of great interest by whatever Government happens to be in power at the time. This will be despite the fact that they will have accomplished what they have despite the appalling level of state investment and support in comparison to the athletes with whom Irish representatives are expected to compete.

"If Irish sport is to be successful it requires a sea change in the attitude of the state. Not only for our prospects of winning at international level, but as an intrinsic part of strengthening the fabric of our communities. Investment, therefore, must shift away from large-scale prestige projects to support for local clubs and for sport within the education system. The Minister would be far better advised to direct his attention towards that than acting as a TV pundit on the performance of our hard working and under-supported international athletes". ENDS

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