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Call for ‘common sense and calm’ in sports funding debate

Call for ‘common sense and calm’ in sports funding debate

Neill O’Neill

IN the wake of recent debate on the allocation of sports capital funding for Mayo, and in particular Westport, local town councillor, Christy Hyland, has called for people to see ‘the bigger picture’ and not make it an issue of one sport or organisation versus another.
A lifelong GAA player and supporter, Cllr Hyland made his comments to The Mayo News, following the ongoing discussion that has not yet abated after the allocation of Sports Capital Funding earlier this month.
Minister of State Michael Ring had the task of making €777,000 satisfy the need of €18.5 million worth of requests from clubs in Mayo, for funding from the sports capital grants pot. Nationally, just €26 million was available and was administered pro-rata on a county by county basis, according to criteria as set out by his department. However, the scheme was grossly over-subscribed, leaving Deputy Ring with some tough choices to make, and it has caused some debate, and even furore locally, that Westport United received €200,000 for their ambitious new development (which is about to enter its first build phase), while the local GAA club, which also has plans afoot to develop a new clubhouse, received nothing.
It was revealed soon after the funding was announced that the reason for this was that the application by Westport GAA club was invalid, but while the club themselves have said nothing publicly on the matter, there has been plenty of debate around it.
At the December meeting of Westport Town Council, Cllr Martin Keane, himself closely affiliated with both Westport United and St Patrick’s GAA Club in Westport, said the gaelic club were ‘dumbfounded’ as to where they went wrong.
“They never had a problem before and if a mistake was made it should be clarified,” he said. “It should be pointed out to them because they are many a long year filling out forms and never went wrong, so overall they are disappointed.”
Last week, a letter was published by The Mayo News, sent from Seosamh Ó Maolchróin, a well-known local GAA stalwart who was among a group who objected several years ago to plans by Westport United to build a training facility and pitch in Mountbrown, Aughagower. In the letter he says he is not surprised that the GAA got no money from Minister Ring while Westport United did.
“Why was I not surprised when I read about the announcement of the latest round of sports capital funding... that Michael Ring had granted €200,000 to Westport Utd soccer club and that he had overlooked other applications in the locality, including one from Westport GAA Club.” He goes on to ask is it not a conflict of interest to favour one club over the other?
With the pledging earlier in the year of €100,000 by Westport Town Council towards the Westport United development also provoking ire, particularly amongst some prominent members of other local sporting clubs, Councillor Hyland has now called for everyone to look at the bigger picture.
Providing facilities
“With regard to some comment recently about sporting grant allocations, I think it is very important that one sporting organisation is not pitted against another in the debate. The whole idea is to provide facilities for the people in the community regardless of sporting affiliation, and as a GAA person all my life I think that whenever public funding is provided for sporting facilities, especially for our young people, it must be welcomed.”
Councillor Hyland pointed out that people of all ages participate in a variety of sports today, and compliments the GAA for their forward thinking, saying he recalls the days ‘when one was forbidden from playing other sports if you were a member of the GAA’.
“Let’s hope that the €777,000 that is to be spent in Mayo from the sports capital fund will provide some badly needed employment during these difficult economic times. I look forward to the day when I will go to see a game at the new Westport United development and enjoy the banter that we all engage in at games all over this county week in week out. Maybe I will then go down the road and see a game of rugby and if time permits, take in a gaelic game on the way home.
“Thank God for sport in these times,” he continued, “and well done to all the sporting organisations who got some funding from Minster Ring - himself the holder of an All-Ireland Gaelic Football medal. He is due great credit for all he has done for sport locally and it is the younger generation that will benefit most handsomely from all this money for sport.”
To those who missed out this time, Cllr Hyland also had a message.
“Lets hope your turn will come soon,” he said, “in the meantime keep up the good work for all who participate in their various sports in Westport and the adjoining areas.”