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'I got the Tour de France to Enniscorthy' | Ivan Yates on Ireland's political funding culture

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

07:34 14 Jan 2020

Broadcaster Ivan Yates has given a candid insight into how Ministers attempt to direct public money into their own constituencies, amid concerns over allocations of money for the Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund (LSSIF).

Yates joined Off The Ball this evening, and gave examples of how he attempted to elevate his home town of Enniscorthy in funding discussions as Minister for Agriculture, as well as why the "slush fund" of smaller loans is a more insidious concern for Irish democracy.

Yates on funding

"That is absolutely the case," said Yates in relation to whether Ministers will try and influence the funding allocation process.

"To give you a case in point, when I was Minister of Agriculture, there was money available for the bicentenary of 1798.

"Not only did I stick my head round the door, I demanded that officials from the Department of Tourism and [Fáilte Ireland] came and explained why Enniscorthy wasn't getting the most amount of money!"

Yates also went on to explain how he and Brendan Howlin tried to influence Bord Bia in designating the start of the Tour de France to begin not only in Ireland, but in his home constituency in Enniscorthy.

"Pat McQuaid met me, Brendan Howlin and I sat down and said 'sorry, but this is going to happen in Enniscorthy!'

'I got the money from Bord Bia of  €100,000 or  €200,000 or something like that. They rang me up and said 'We did the measurements, we got to visit Carrick-on-Suir - we can't do Enniscorthy.

"The next thing, Bord Bia ring them up and say 'Sorry, the grant has fallen out of bed - you can't get the grant,' and then they realised that they had made a mistake on their measurements and it was put back to Enniscorthy!

"That is the sort of political culture I was brought up on."

Political culture

Yates was asked whether it is likely that this kind of political culture still exists today, with regard to allocation of funding in rounds for the LSSIF.

He maintained that the more unnerving aspect regarding funding relates to smaller grants.

"Things like [the LSSIF money]; there is no difference between this and GAA projects. Páirc Uí Chaoimh would be a big example, or Bertie [Ahern] and Croke Park.

"[The government] get quite a lot of return on it; the VAT, the building jobs, the tourism, the local community benefit. You could have concerts and different events, which happen at the RDS and so on.

"So it is actually an economic return. It does require a push, and persistence [...] but these are done in five or ten year tranches, and each step of the way people may claim more credit than they had in delivering.

"But there is no doubt that the most nefarious and the most political is at the smaller, club level."

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