I don’t have the cash to pay grants, says Cullen

Sports Minister Martin Cullen will meet GPA chiefs to discuss inter-county player grants but insists he does not have the €3.5m required for the scheme.

The Irish Sports Council (ISC) will today announce their funding for the GAA, FAI and IRFU. However questions over what monies, if any, will be made available for the country’s top hurlers and footballers are likely to dominate this afternoon’s press conference.

The economic downturn and government belt tightening looks set to force a drastic reduction – or possibly a scrappage – of the scheme.

The Minister told the Dáil yesterday that his hands are tied and he is to outline the situation to GPA bosses in the coming weeks. He was responding to questions from Deputy Mary Upton who claimed that: "as matters stand, the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) is being left in limbo".

The Minister said: "I am sure we would all agree that the contribution that Gaelic players make to sport in this country, particularly the sports in which they participate, is significant.

"The problem I have is that this year I do not have that sum of €3.5m to start with. All I have is the Irish Sports Council (ISC) grant, having regard to the reduction in it compared to last year’s grant. The GPA players rightly say they will take a 10% reduction like everybody else but I do not have the sum of €3.5m.

"If the money were to come out of the funds, it must come from the GAA or the IRFU and the FAI and they are not disposed towards providing it. The latter two sporting bodies do not see why they should fund players in a different association. They do not see that as being their role. There is no question but there is a difficulty here.

"In light of the current economic constraints and the reduction in the ISC’s allocation of funding in the 2009 Estimates, I am having ongoing discussions with the council on optimum funding options in order to maintain its existing programmes while building on recent progress.

"The future funding of the Gaelic players schemes is being considered in that context and a final decision on the matter will be made following discussions I intend to have with the GPA shortly."

For the full story, see www.examiner.ie/sport/gaa

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