Grants offer golden chance
WHATEVER bad news awaits us in the months ahead as the Budget is finalised, there is one piece of good tidings on the horizon for sports clubs and community organisations.
The Sports Capital Programme -- which no matter what spin you may have heard or read emanating from the sports minister Mary Hanafin -- is currently suspended, but it seems an announcement on its return in 2011 is imminent.
At the recent Fianna Fáil think-in in Galway, Hanafin told party colleagues that she would shortly confirm publicly that the scheme is being re-opened to new applications for the first time in two years. The return of the programme, which is largely funded from National Lottery proceeds, is to be welcomed. However, the minister should take the opportunity of this fresh start to ensure a new approach to how money is distributed. There was plenty of cash flying around in its previous guise, but political influence meant it was not always wisely spent.
This time, the department needs to be vigorous in assessing every single funding application. A project should be supported on its merits only, and not because a senior minister lives nearby. And proposals should only be supported in areas where it is shown there is a clear necessity and material benefit to it. Where value for money was never accorded the importance it should have been in the past, it must now be a cornerstone of the scheme.
And if it appears to many that bringing back these grants is a luxury the country can't afford right now, it's worth remembering that the money directly supports employment -- and if it's apportioned correctly by the department it can bring material benefits too. This is a golden opportunity for the government to make a difference -- we can but hope they don't blow it.