Those of us who thought Martin Cullen getting the Arts, Sport & Tourism portfolio would mean a windfall for Waterford can curse the ‘credit crunch’.
Clonmel Senator Phil Prendergast, Labour’s spokesperson for Arts & Sport ‘upstairs’, says slashing the Department’s budget by 22%, or over €150m, is “a myopic soft option.”
Sport, she adds, is seen as a “luxury” that we can support in good times and discard in leaner times. But that, I’m afraid, is the reality: there must be other priorities.
Minister Cullen was putting the best possible spin on things, saying the allocation his Department received, with €204m specifically for sport, would “consolidate” the investments made over the past decade (more than €700m in those 10 years). However, the changed economic circumstances have resulted in a reduction in the amount allocated to John Treacy’s Irish Sports Council for next year (down €4.6m to €53m). This could well impact on the €2.5m in sport grants for inter-county GAA players which kicked in this year. If that money was scrapped or suspended in 2009, the climate isn’t exactly ideal for a strike, so, while they’ve right on their side, the GPA will need to tread warily.