CORK South-Central Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has called on the incoming government to ensure that sport is not neglected in its new multi-brief department.
Minister Catherine Martin of the Green Party now heads up a department that includes media, tourism, arts, culture and the Gaeltacht along with sport.
Deputy Ó Laoghaire, a member of St Finbarr’s Hurling & Football Clubs, shares his constituency with three members of the government – Taoiseach Micheál Martin and ministers Simon Coveney and Michael McGrath – and he is concerned that sporting issues may not be dealt with in the optimal fashion.
“I am concerned that sport is being combined with far too many diverse and different areas,” he says, “and I do not think it will get the focus that it deserves and needs.
“Obviously, any department will deal with several areas, but sport is now in with media, tourism, arts, the Gaeltacht and culture, so the key sports issues will find it hard to get to the top of the agenda.”
During the lifetime of the last administration, issues such as FAI and Olympic Council governance came to the fore and the previous minister Shane Ross had to deal with them.
However, Deputy Ó Laoghaire is keen for proactivity rather than each controversy leaving the government on the back foot or success being piggy-backed.
“There is a history of sport only being seen as political relevance at a time of a major sporting event or achievement, or in some instances a major controversy,” he says.
“The many significant policy issues facing sport rarely get much attention, and it hasn't been a priority of many recent senior Ministers for Sport, although some junior ministers have been somewhat better.
"But sport matters – hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of people participate in countless different ways on a weekly basis, and indeed it employs many thousands of people as well.
"It has a crucial role to play in the physical and mental wellbeing of our people, which deserves just as much attention as supporting sport at the highest level which is often the case.
“I believe Catherine Martin to be able and diligent, and any concern is no reflection on her. However, I am concerned it doesn’t reflect a government that is considering sport to be of central importance.
"I hope that isn’t the case, and of course I would welcome the minister to visit Ireland’s sporting capital at any time!”