Speech by John O’Donoghue, T.D.,
Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism
at the official opening of the new Clubhouse for
Sportsworld Running Club, in Bushy Park, Terenure
on Thursday 16th June, 2005 at 6.30pm

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me as Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism to be here this evening to witness the official opening of this clubhouse facility, the new home of Sportsworld Running Club. I welcome the opportunity to see what can be achieved through the hard work and commitment on the part of club members and I am delighted that the Government, through my Department, was in a position to assist the work here with a grant of €80,000 from the Sports Capital Programme.

This Government has a very strong commitment to sport and one of our main policies in relation to the development of sport and recreation in Ireland is to increase participation, particularly in disadvantaged areas. The Sports Capital Programme is the main way in which we support the provision of sports facilities of all types throughout the country. The Programme assists voluntary and community organisations, such as Sportsworld Running Club, in developing sport and recreational facilities that will maximise participation in sport.

This Government is committed to sport and believes in the contribution it can make to our society, both for individuals and for communities. The last six years have seen a dramatic increase in Government funding for Irish sport – over €610m spent on sport since 1997. Since 1998, almost €332m has been allocated under the Sports Capital Programme to almost 4,300 sports projects throughout the length and breadth of the country. I expect to be in a position to announce grant allocations under the 2005 Sports Capital Programme shortly and this will boost these figure higher still.

This level of funding will ensure that the extraordinary momentum built up in recent years in the provision of top class sports facilities and in the implementation of sports development programmes will be sustained for the benefit of all elements of Irish sport.

I am delighted to have opportunities like this to see at first-hand some of the tremendous projects, which have been made possible with the help of funding under the national lottery funded Sports Capital Programme. I am especially heartened to see athletics clubs receive funding. The sport provides a fantastic variety of individual disciplines and events, equally available to men and women. There is something there for everyone to try and to find a particular discipline, which suits them.

Since 2001, a total of over €5.1m has been allocated to athletics projects under the Sports Capital Programme and this does not include a number of municipal and multi-sport projects which provide facilities not just for athletics but for other sports too. The Irish Sports Council has provided over €4.1m in NGB grants and €2.9m under the carding scheme to athletics since 1999.

I was very pleased, with the Sports Council, to be able to announce earlier today, the further investment of €3.5m in the performance plans of thirteen sports in 2005. The focus is on providing comprehensive world-class supports for the most talented athletes from the earliest possible stage. This brings to over €6m the total invested in high performance sport in 2005.

I am sure you will be pleased that the sport of athletics will benefit to the tune of €324,000 from today’s announcement.

However, the Government funding I have alluded to is only one step towards realising the potential of the sport of athletics. Without the vision, courage, hard work and commitment of local volunteers, facilities such as this one would never be achieved.

Sportsworld Running Club was founded in 1983 and has long been associated with Bushy Park. In its relatively short history the club has achieved remarkable success in terms of national titles at all levels and international success such as the silver medal in the World Master’s Track and Field Championships.

The club has also developed into one of the biggest clubs in Ireland. One aspect of this club that sets it apart is that it caters for athletes of all standards from those recognised by the Sports Council as Elite Athletes to those who run simply for fun and exercise. There is a great social aspect for many of the members who train and run regularly with this club. The club also has a strong commitment to charity fundraising. Last month saw the 21st anniversary of the annual Sportsworld AC 5 Mile Classic and over the years this event has raised a considerable amount of money for the National Children’s Hospital

This clubhouse is a fine example of what the Sports Capital Programme is aiming to achieve. It combines a fine facility with access to participation for the community. Projects such as this require great dedication and perseverance on the part of all those involved. I know that Emily and Mick Dowling were founder members of this club and both they, and all involved, should feel very proud of this clubhouse. It is important also to acknowledge the support of Dublin City Council who made this site here in Bushy Park available to Sportsworld. Developments like this one, where a local club and the local authority come together to realise a facility, show us all what can be achieved through cooperation. I am glad that my Department was also in a position to assist this excellent project.

The value of sport and recreation to the nation simply cannot be over-emphasised, in raising our health and fitness levels, in providing a means of keeping young people away from crime and drugs, in helping to give us a sense of ourselves and in enhancing our lifestyles. I have no doubt that the members of this club will experience the increased benefits of having this new clubhouse at their disposal.

As we have all heard in the media recently, sedentary lifestyles are widespread in Ireland and throughout the world. Physical activity, particularly through sport, can have important benefits not just for the individual but also for society. I strongly believe that sport has the potential to enrich the lives of all people and no one, regardless of age or background should feel that they could not benefit from physical activity.

I wish all involved in Sportsworld Running Club continued success. You have achieved great success to date and I have no doubt that the addition of this clubhouse will ensure your continue success long into the future.

Thank you.