I see that Johnno, in his role as Fine Gael Deputy Spokesperson for Art, Sport and Tourism with Special Responsibility for Sport, tackled Minister Martin Cullen in the Dail last night on the players’ grants issue. He got a proper tackle in too, forcing the Minister to concede that budgetary constraints – specifically the reduced budget that’ll be available to the Irish Sports Council next year – could mean that the grants won’t get paid in 2009. This year’s payments, which totalled €3.5 million, have apparently already been doled out. Johnno opined in the House that ” the principle of player grants should be maintained whatever the budgetary constraints” and while I’m sure that the good Minister will have no problem agreeing with the Deputy on the principle of paying players, it’s getting his paws on the cold, hard lolly that’ll be the problem.
It’s kinda ironic that, after all the hot air on this issue twelve months ago, something as prosaic as a lack of funding could be what kills this initiative. When the rights and wrongs about pay-for-play were in full flow a year ago, none of us I’d say gave a second thought about where this money was coming from, despite the fact that it was from our own back pockets. With everyone now, post-budget, paying more in tax and seeing less in services, the notion of giving grants to GAA players does seem like a bit of an extravagance we could do without. The principle may be fine but set against rising class sizes, an inability to fund cancer vaccines, bank bailouts and this godawful ballooning budget deficit that this bunch of fuckwits who rule us don’t seem to have a clear idea about what they’re going to do to minimise it, it’s the practice of using public funds in this way in these straightened times that’s the problem.