Sunday 17 December 2017

Yes to Rugby World Cup - but with a close eye on taxpayer cash

England staged the last Rugby World Cup in 2015, which was won by New Zealand
England staged the last Rugby World Cup in 2015, which was won by New Zealand
John Downing

John Downing

There are quite literally thousands of reasons why Ireland's bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup must succeed.

My current favourite reason is a rare positive memory from the darkest days of the Troubles in the 1980s when all seemed to be recurring spasms of murder and mayhem. In the southern jurisdiction, the "far North" seemed to be a centre of violence and fear.

Yet in the winter dark on many Saturday mornings, cars were packed in Limerick and other centres, for the long haul to places like Enniskillen. The rugby connection kept for some a cross-border normality.

The 2023 Rugby World Cup can reinforce that vital all-island link. If committed to paper, the other positive arguments - economic, cultural and social - would wallpaper a medium-sized house.

On that basis, we should automatically welcome the express passage of the 'Rugby World Cup Bill' through the Dáil and Seanad Éireann this week. Or, should we?

Well, the straight answer is: probably not. It is a very big undertaking and we need proper assessments of the Irish taxpayers' commitment and other aspects of how the finances of such major undertaking would be structured.

The Dáil is programmed to break for holidays this day next week. Its output has been rather poor thus far. Yet, despite this small output, we are back with the application of the guillotine to ram this one through the houses of parliament.

Only seven short pieces of legislation have passed since TDs returned after the Easter break on May 2. It seems likely that just this rugby cup draft law will be the last one to pass before the summer holidays.

The Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan, has rather impeccable credentials in this department as somebody who grew up in south Dublin and attended posh rugby school Gonzaga.

Yep, let's get it out of the way now - in a past life I worked as a press officer for the Green Party in government for the ill-starred years 2007-2011.

That said, I believe that Eamon Ryan wants to see Ireland host that upcoming world cup. He just wants to question how the rather large sum of €320m will be spent.

He has very reasonably asked why things must be finalised this week and why the Irish Rugby Football Union could not pop around next week to the TDs' and Senators' sports committee to tease out some details.

How can that be seen as in any way excessive?

Major spending stories on big picture sports projects which ended in tears are not uncommon.

But Sports Minister Shane Ross is a man in a hurry on this one.

Irish Independent

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