A New Era of Sport in Government

A new era of sport in Government dawns this morning following the shuffle of responsibilities sparked by the creation of a new Department for Higher Education and Research.

Sport retains its recent link to tourism but has left the Department of Transport and now moved to a new home of Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht under new Minister Catherine Martin.

The acronym of DTTAS which has guided sports place at the cabinet table will now become DMTACSG or some such variant but the important thing is that sport has retained its high position of influence at the cabinet table where it has been since 1994.

We should never underestimate the importance of that place at the heart of policy, budgeting and decision making, even if we do occasionally have to shift our thinking on where the relationships can best be brought to life.

The new Minister with overall responsibility is Catherine Martin, the first time a woman has held the role since Mary Hanafin did so briefly in 2010, which can be seen as a positive. She will have perhaps the most diverse brief in Government with many of the areas heightened in importance to the population, but also in need of greater Government support as a result of the pandemic and the lockdown.

It will be an incredibly difficult balancing act, especially at a time when the Minister is also standing for leadership of her party.

Martin is a native of Monaghan but has been living and previously working as an English and Music teacher in South Dublin for nearly 20 years. She was a councillor in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown before her election to the Dáil in 2016.

She has sat on Oireachtas Committees on Education and Mental Health.

At local level within sport she campaigned for the reopening of Glenalbyn swimming pool in Stillorgan and while not much is evident about an engagement with sport, she has been known to congratulate her local Wanderers GAA Club on initiatives.

Together with her partner and fellow TD Francis Duffy, she has three children aged 13, 11 and nine, so they are likely to be in the midst of all the different activities, including sport that children are involved in.

Over the coming days we will learn the positions of up to 17 Ministers of Sate and it has to be hoped that the traditional pairing of Tourism and Sport might be retained to give extra focus within what will be a busy Department.

There has been much talk since the Cabinet was announced of a lack of representation for the west of Ireland. Each of the last three Minister of State with responsibility for sport have been re-elected and represent constituencies that may need some TLC.

Brendan Griffin from Kerry, Patrick O’Donovan from Limerick and Michael Ring from Mayo have all been strong with the brief from the Fine Gael side of the house while Marc McSharry from Sligo and Robert Troy from Westmeath have been prominent within Fianna Fáil.

That is a shortlist of five that would have knowledge and experience in the area but we will have to wait and see how the cards fall in other areas before we get clarity on who else will be guiding sport in the corridors of power over the coming years.

In terms of continuity, officials do tend to move with responsibilities when Departments are re-cast so the experience of people like Ken Spratt, Peter Hogan, James Lavelle, Saorla Begley and others will hopefully provide another bond to the learnings of recent years and the pressing on with the National Sports Policy, the Sport Ireland Campus and the various different capital investment programmes that were confirmed in the programme for Government.

Read More – Take a look at how sport was confirmed in the now confirmed programme for Government

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