Wednesday 26 June 2019

Row over early tip-off to candidates on sport funds

  

Robert Troy: Said it was a desperate attempt to buy people’s votes. Picture: Tom Burke
Robert Troy: Said it was a desperate attempt to buy people’s votes. Picture: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The Government has been accused of a "desperate" bid to buy votes after ministers and local election candidates were tipped off on new funding for sports clubs a day before details of the scheme were officially published.

Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance politicians took to social media on Sunday to hail allocations that had been made to their areas from funding of almost €10m.

The cash being distributed under the Sports Capital Programme scheme, to more than 450 clubs to buy equipment, was published on the Department of Sport website on Monday.

Fianna Fáil sport spokesman Robert Troy accused the Government of "cynical electioneering".

Among the Government politicians who welcomed the funding in online posts at the weekend were Independent Alliance junior minister Finian McGrath and Fine Gael junior minister Jim Daly.

Westmeath local election hopeful and independent councillor Michael O'Brien - one of a number of candidates aligned with Alliance junior minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran - took to Facebook on Sunday evening to praise the "good news" for a string of clubs in his area. He thanked Mr Moran for his assistance with the grants.

Fine Gael local election candidates who highlighted cash for their areas on Sunday evening included councillors Tom O'Leary, in Skerries, Co Dublin, and Sharon Tolan, in Bettystown, Co Meath.

Mr Troy said it was "fair ball" for the candidates to spread the information to their constituents. But he said he only learned of the sports grants allocations when he contacted Independent Alliance Sports Minister Shane Ross's officials on Monday evening. He claimed that Government politicians were given the information on Sunday in a bid to give their own candidates an advantage.

He added: "It's a cynical electioneering attempt by Minister Ross and his colleagues in Government and it's a desperate attempt to buy votes.

"I don't think people will be fooled, all these announcements coming out the week of a local election. People will see through it."

Mr Ross's spokesperson has insisted the announcement was not timed to coincide with the election on Friday.

A department spokesperson said officials always aimed to have the grant applications assessed by the end of April, but it wasn't possible to allocate funds until this week.

Irish Independent

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