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On Wednesday the 12th of July a packed Dáil gallery witnessed a groundbreaking debate on Irish Football when the Labour Party Motion on the Future of the game was passed unopposed in Dáil Éireann after passionate and comprehensive contributions from all of our TD’s .
Labour football pmb

The Motion recognised that Football has traditionally been a working-class game in Ireland, but has suffered over the last 100 years from poor leadership and chronic underinvestment.

It noted that significant investment is needed in all sports to deliver new facilities and gender equality with a dedicated focus on changing facilities for women and girls, combined with access to playing pitches, not just for those playing football, but also in the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and other sports and pointed out that Ireland’s football facilities have fallen behind our European counterparts and broadly supported the 15-year plan to invest €863 million over 15 years across 2,500 projects.

Between 20 and 30 per cent of bets placed in Ireland are on football and the party argued that a 1 per cent increase in the betting tax would raise €50 million a year providing a dedicated investment stream to invest in football, and other sporting codes. Among those in the Gallery were representatives from Football Clubs across the country, coaches, officials, current players and former players including former Irish internationals Niall Quinn, Paddy Mulligan and Turlough O’Connor who were joined by Tegan Lyons, Sophia King, Lexi King and Amelia Kee from Mallow United Girls team and many others. Our TD’s spoke of their own connection with local clubs and the connection of Clubs with our communities. They outlined the need for Public Investment and the benefits for everyone from it. The full detail of the Motion and text and video of the Debate are available on the Oireachtas Website. However the following excerpts will give you a brief flavour of the debate:

“Football, for too long, has been in the political shadows, a working-class sport rooted in working-class communities, but which cuts through across all classes.”- Duncan Smith

“It is time now for the State itself to have a comprehensive, State-backed investment programme to develop the domestic football game covering grassroots, League of Ireland and the international teams.”- Brendan Howlin

“What an incredible role model Savannah McCarthy is as she proudly speaks of her Traveller heritage when representing her country. Football remains one of the most effective anti-racism, anti-poverty and anti-addiction tools we have. Listen to the words of Sherriff Street’s Olivia O’Toole. She has 130 caps and 54 goals for Ireland. She saw at firsthand how heroin was ripping her community apart in the 1980s and 1990s. She said: When I was around 13, my sister would have been 16 or 17, and I could see her disintegrating before my eyes because of drugs … If I’d picked the wrong path, I wouldn’t be speaking to you today. Many of my friends who went the other way are dead now. Olivia had football.” – Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

“I will speak only for women and girls today because this is about facilities…What are we about today? We are about wanting people like Tegan, Sophia, Lexi and Amelia to continue on their journey through the game of football, and we do not want any impediments put in their way.” Sean Sherlock

“I have worked for many years at local level through Larkview FC, and before that Inchicore Athletic FC girls, to bring up girls’ football. We have seen that significant barriers remain to girls’ and women’s participation at equal level in sport. We had Lisa Fallon speaking passionately to us recently at an Oireachtas briefing about just how difficult it is for so many girls to participate fully in sport, particularly with the lack of facilities. We know from the FAI’s report that 38% of clubs do not have women’s toilets…. The time has come for football. We are glad that the Government has not opposed our motion, but the campaign does not stop here.” – Ivana Bacik

“The two things that define me are my football and my class. They are linked inextricably….Football fills us with hope. It fills us with dreams. It allows us to think big things for ourselves and for our communities….There is no need to have a recital of the FAI’s crisis years here today. We are all too well aware of what happened. The new FAI team, and indeed the support received from Government to stabilise and reform the association, deserves great credit. We have now moved on from a permacrisis to a situation where our game has a world of opportunities opening up before us. We are at an inflection point, when we can finally talk less about the history of Irish football and more about the future of our game in this country ” – Ged Nash

“My daughter captained the first underage girls’ soccer team for Arra Rovers in our village to their very first win. I have skin in the game. I look at the likes of them and my local club that has no facilities. Nenagh Celtic is a club in my home town which comes from very much working-class areas and has a long history. It has no facilities. There are hundreds of examples my colleagues will go through as well. This is not sustainable. It is unfair, wrong and discriminatory. Football is a very inclusive sport. ….. There are thousands of clubs around the country that simply do not have the facilities such as boys’ and girls’ changing facilities. They are changing in cars. It is completely unacceptable.” – Alan Kelly

The motion was unopposed and will provide a benchmark for sports funding in the future for football and also for other sports.

Finally I wish to remember Seán O’Reardon who passed away earlier in the morning on the day of the debate. A Christian Brother educated father, deeply suspicious of football, he was plagued by a 12-year-old Aodhán to bring him to an Ireland international. Aodhan remembered his reaction in the Dáil.

“However, when Liam Brady’s shot hit the net against Brazil in 1987, my first ever game, I turned to my Dad and he was on his feet with his arms in the air, because football is Ireland.” AOR

Suaimhneas síoraí air. May he rest in Peace.


– Brian McDonagh

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