November 5 - The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) have joined forces with the Football Association of Ireland, the Gaelic Athletic Association, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) to urge the Government to retain funding for sport and warned that any further cuts would leave the country facing the prospect of being "humiliated" at the London 2012 Games.


Officials from the all four bodies have appeared before a Dail Committee to make their case with a new document entitled, "Why Irish Sport Matters".


The 32-page submission, which has been several weeks in the works, was delivered to Minister for Sport Martin Cullen last month.


Patrick Hickey, the President of the OCI, again warned what cutbacks would mean for Ireland's chances of success at the London 2012 Games.


He said: "I've explained before how the London Olympics in 2012 are as close as we'll ever get to a home Olympics.


"It will be an absolute disaster to our chances of performing well out there if there are any further cutbacks at this stage.


"If we do allow the cuts the happen, the reports from London will be abysmal.


"We'll have a humiliating Games, and that will be a disaster for the country.


"The question will be asked then, how did we allow this to happen; too late by then."


Ireland finished 62nd in the medals table at the Beijing Olympics last year when its team of 54 competing in 12 sports won three medals, a silver and two bronze, all in boxing.


It was the country's best performance at a Games since Atlanta in 1996 when they finished 28th overall with four medals, three of them gold.


All four medals were won by swimmer Michelle Smith (pictured), whose subsequent ban for doping-related offences two years later took the shine off her performance. 


Hickey also highlighted the impact of some of the cutbacks to date, namely the decision not to progress with the Sports Campus at Abbotstown.


He said: "Four years ago, when London got the Olympics, there were a lot of good ideas going around about how we might benefit, in terms of bringing countries here to train before the Games.


"After all this, not one country has registered with us to come and train in Ireland due to the poor facilities.


"The Sports Campus was an absolutely superb facility, and would have allowed us to offer some state-of-the-art sporting facilities, but as we know the plug has now been pulled on that."


The major governing bodies are also backed by the Federation of Irish Sports (FIS), a recently-formed group which represents the governing bodies of 65 of the smaller or lesser known Irish sports.


They told the Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs that its members would be decimated if the Government goes ahead with recommendations in the McCarthy Report, which recommends cutting public funding to sport.


Sarah O’Connor, the chief executive of the FIS, said: "While we fully recognise today's unprecedented economic conditions in Ireland, it is our considered belief that Irish sport has already suffered a significant reduction in funding with the suspension of the Sports Capital Programme and an 11 per cent reduction in 2009 Irish Sports Council funding.


"The McCarthy report now recommends further cuts.


"We would stress that sport is not looking for additional funding, but rather to protect existing and promised investment.


"This includes capital developments, such as the proposed National Sports Campus at Abbotstown, which has been granted full planning permission and which was intended to be a cornerstone of Ireland’s programme in relation to the 2012 London Olympics."


Total Government funding for sport in 2008 was €311 million (£279 million).


For 2009, that figure is €195 million (£175 million) – a cut of over €100 million (£90 million).


The Sports Capital Programme, which in recent years has provided between €50-80 million (£45-£72 million) annually towards facilities, has been completely cut in 2009, and a cut of some €16 million (£14 million) from next year's Irish Sports Council budget is being discussed.



Related stories

August 2009: Hickey warns of Irish flop at London 2012 if funding cut

July 2009: Go-ahead given for new sports campus but doubts remain

May 2009: Hickey attacks Irish Sports Council

December 2008: Ireland should concentrate on quality not quantity for London 2012 report says