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High level of sports grants for Dublin was 'bringing government funding system into disrepute'

Civil servants in Shane Ross’s department warned that some sporting bodies were getting funded even though their applications were weak.

THE LEVEL OF sports funding going to Dublin under the tenure of Minister Shane Ross was bringing the entire system into “disrepute” according to internal departmental correspondence.

Records obtained by Noteworthy, TheJournal.ie’s investigative journalism platform, show how projects in the capital were much more likely to get funded – because of the low level of applications the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport were receiving from Dublin.

Civil servants said that sporting bodies in the city were sometimes getting funded even though the standard of their applications was very weak.

In one instance, a project had scored just 17 points out of 100 on an initial assessment, but had later been bumped up to 24.

The bulk of the grade had been awarded simply because they had never received a grant before, according to internal correspondence.

In an email, a senior official said: “As has been the case with Dublin applications over several [rounds] we find that applications that have scored very poorly are receiving everything they applied for.

“As long as the … assessment criteria and marking scheme in Dublin are utterly irrelevant, some of the inevitable outcomes may attract justifiable criticism that brings the entire scheme into disrepute.”

The official also warned that a large grant for a project in the constituency of Minister Shane Ross was likely to attract controversy.

The Jesus and Mary College in Goatstown received the maximum €150,000 grant allowed under the scheme.

The official said: “There is one maximum grant Grove School/Pembroke Wanderers hockey pitch. Although not a private school, it does appear to already enjoy sports facilities well above the average – including an existing hockey pitch and tennis courts.

“The school has demonstrated considerable financial resources in its application – and a decision to award a maximum SCP [Sports Capital Programme] grant in this case may well be highlighted.”

Constituency Funding

Of the €6.9 million announced as part of the Sports Capital Programme in January of this year almost 5% of it ended up going to Mr Ross’ constituency.

Four projects in the minister’s area secured a total of €325,100 or 4.7% of the total. As well as Jesus and Mary College, a local GAA club, a croquet and lawn tennis club, and a cycling team also got grants.

In a statement, the Department of Transport said the “per capita” approach of giving funding based on population had been considered a “fair and transparent approach”.

A spokesperson said: “It countered any suggestions that certain counties received preferential treatment.”

They said in the 2017 funding round however, there were not enough valid applications from Dublin to use up its full per-capita allocation and the surplus was distributed nationwide.

“This resulted in all valid Dublin applications receiving the full amount sought,” the spokesperson said.

They said as part of a review of how the funding system operated, it was suggested that there should be a minimum “pass” score for projects to receive a grant.

The spokesperson said: “In relation to the subsequent round of the programme (2018), the assessment of all new applications is not yet complete.

“Allocations in respect of ‘equipment only’ applications were made in May however, and … no allocations were made to applications that scored in the bottom 25% overall regardless of which county these applications came from.

“Full details of these allocations are published on the Department’s website. Assessment of the remaining new capital allocations is ongoing and allocations are expected in the coming months.”

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Ken Foxe

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