Increased funding confirmed for developing Tour talents, but more merited
Waterford TD John Deasy says the increased funding just announced for up-and-coming Irish golfers is both a vote of confidence in them and an acknowledgement of the sport’s spin-off potential.
At the end of March, Sport Ireland, whose CEO is John Treacy, announced a €200,000 commitment to support Team Ireland Golf (TIG) in the current year. It includes €130,000 in grants for a dozen budding tour professionals — West Waterford’s Gary Hurley among them.
Deputy Deasy recently obtained exchequer funding figures for golfer development over the past decade from his Fine Gael colleague, sports minister Brendan Griffin. In confirming the latest funding round, he emphasised golf’s value to the tourism economy in areas like Dungarvan, which has three 18-hole courses in close proximity.
TIG funding from 2008–17 amounted to €1.538m, spread between 51 players. This is half the number supported since the TGI framework was introduced in 1999 to assist the progress of selected early-stage pros on the main tours; thereby promoting Ireland as a golf-tourism destination.
John Deasy says: “The Government’s new ‘Global Ireland’ promotional campaign was launched in Washington recently and the importance of golf to the Irish brand in America and worldwide shouldn’t be underestimated.
“It might be seen by some as a luxury item but supporting young golfing talent is an investment not just in sport but also tourism. For a small country, what we’ve already achieved in terms of profile on the back of major wins, Ryder Cups and the overall rankings is amazing when you think about it.”
Under the Team Ireland Golf initiative, led by Des Smyth, all players in receipt of assistance can avail of the world-class facilities at the GUI’s National Golf Academy at Carton House.
This includes free access to a network of physiologists, sports psychologists, bio-mechanists, physiotherapists and doctors — all coordinated by the Sport Ireland Institute.
A winter coaching base has also been established at Quinta do Lago in Portugal through Smyth, a former European Tour veteran and Ryder Cup player/vice-captain.
Crucially, TIG players are guaranteed a number of starts in European Challenge Tour events: Irish invitations to which are to increase significantly this year. This is thanks to a significant investment in the home-based Irish Challenge Tour event over the past four seasons. Aglish’s Gary Hurley (25) has been given three Challenge Tour starts as well as grant support this year.
Golfer-funding levels peaked in 2009 when 19 players benefitted to the tune of €0.25m (including Shane Lowry, winner of that year’s Irish Open as an amateur, after which he immediately turned pro). But the overall figure had reduced gradually since, with 11 players sharing €90,000 in 2017.
Previous beneficiaries include West Waterford’s Seamus Power. The 31-year-old Ballinamult man turned pro in 2011, receiving funding over an eight-year period up to and including 2016 when he represented Ireland at the Olympics. He finished a creditable joint-15th at the Rio Games, after putting himself in contention for a podium placing.
However, the margins are very tight. Having only just secured his 2018 Tour card in October, Power, like Wicklow’s Paul Dunne, scored his highest PGA finish to-date last month. Both tied for fifth at the Corales Championship in the Dominican Republic.
In 2017 an earnings cap was introduced for the first time, meaning players who won over €250,000 in prizemoney in the previous season can only apply for non-financial TIG support.
Noting Des Smyth’s point that, though no guarantee, “the grants are important” because “it frees up more of your time to focus on your golf”, John Deasy says: “It can take many emerging pros several years to figure on the top tours and they need that early funding to sustain their careers, and meet their considerable expenses when prize-money is hard to come by. It can be a very difficult and stressful existence and the competition to make the cut internationally has never been tougher.”
He and John Treacy, who is a member of both Dungarvan and West Waterford Golf Clubs, have discussed the need to continue financial backing “to help Ireland’s top amateurs transition into the professional game... we now have a strong system in place which will ensure Ireland continues to produce world-class golfers long into the future,” the Villierstown athletics great says.
Deputy Deasy adds: “Some €3.825m has been invested in Team Ireland Golf since it was set up nearly 20 years ago, but when you look at the players who’ve come through the system — Shane Lowry, Paul Dunne, Damien McGrane, Peter Lawrie and Michael Hoey — no-one can say that hasn’t been money well spent. You couldn’t buy that sort of advertising for Ireland abroad.”
Flying the flag for West Waterford: US PGA Tour pro Seamus Power and the European Challenge Tour’s Gary Hurley
Select Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and An Taoiseach
Deputy John Deasy: In his opening statement, the Taoiseach mentioned strong relationships in Europe and the world. When he took office, the Taoiseach made an announcement about increasing our footprint or presence globally.
Many people agreed that we had and had a significant and widespread presence throughout the globe and that tapping into that and utilising it for even clear economic purposes made a great deal of sense.
From what I do, my experience is that we have never been as active in the United States of America and Washington, in particular. I base that on some knowledge of what previous Administrations did when it came to the USA. It is fair to say we have had a stronger presence in Washington over the last eight months.
When I look at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, I see a Department which, through no one's fault, is somewhat consumed by Brexit and Northern Ireland. Considering that people agreed about the intention to increase that presence globally for very good reasons, what practical steps are being undertaken within the Taoiseach's own Department to make sure it happens outside the obvious constraints of Brexit and Northern Ireland and the internal pressures that leads to?
The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar: Brexit creates, in some ways, an impetus for us to increase our presence around the world to become less reliant on UK markets. Even if there were no Brexit, we should be doing it anyway as there is a big world out there, which is much larger than Britain and Europe.
We are working across Departments on joined-up policy-making to develop what we are calling "Global Ireland 2025"... In essence, our plan over the next seven years to 2025 is to increase very substantially our presence around the world by beefing up existing diplomatic missions, opening new ones and expanding the roles of the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia.
It also means doing things in the arts and culture space. For so many people around the world, their first glimpse of Ireland is through the arts, our literature and language. One of the things I got to do in New York which I was delighted to do was increase our funding for the Irish Arts Centre.
I would love to see a number of Irish arts centres around the world. Deputy Deasy will know from working with Mercyhurst University and others the value of education exchanges, of which I would like to see more.
It is part of the philosophy I am trying to bring to government, of taking the objective first - to increase our footprint around the world - and then building our policy behind it, not with just one Department but with several Departments and agencies implementing it, and communicating it in a singular way.
Waterford TD John Deasy has been informed that farmers who wish to install CCTV to deter criminals targeting rural communities can avail of either of two tax reliefs.
The Fine Gael deputy had put down a Dáil question asking the Minister for Finance if consideration has been given to an incentive or clawback scheme for farmers seeking to put in cameras or similar security equipment.
Minister Paschal Donohoe told the Fine Gael deputy: “I am advised by Revenue that a farmer would be entitled to write off the cost of installing a CCTV system against her or his farming income as a CCTV system would qualify for capital allowances. The cost may be written off over eight years.”
He added that where a farmer does not have an entitlement to capital allowances (he or she may be retired and no longer trading for example), relief may be available under the Home Renovation Incentive scheme.
The HRI scheme provides income tax relief of 13.5% of the cost of certain repairs, renovations and improvements carried out on a person's main residence. The installation of security equipment (such as CCTV cameras) comes within the terms of the incentive.
It should be noted that, as relief under HRI is restricted to works carried out on a residence, the installation of a CCTV camera to protect an out-building, or other non-residential part of a farm, would not qualify.
“The relief is granted by way of a credit against income tax over the two years following the year in which the works are paid for. Half of the relief is given in each year,” John Deasy says.
The key features of the scheme are that works must be carried out by a tax compliant contractor, and prior to 31 December 2018. Also, Local Property Tax payments must be up to date in respect of the property; and the cost of the works must be greater than €4,405 and not more than €30,000 (both figures exclusive of VAT). The cost of multiple works by different contractors may be aggregated in a claim.
After raising traffic concerns, Deasy seeks update as pupil population could hit 1,350
Waterford TD John Deasy has been told that a major extension at Árdscoil na Mara, Tramore is on track, pending a planning decision from the Council, which is due soon.
The Fine Gael deputy tabled a Dáil question asking the Minister for Education and Skills to provide an update on plans to provide an additional nine classrooms and other accommodation works.
Replacing the CBS and Stella Maris secondary schools, the €15m co-educational campus was completed and opened in March 2014 under the Department’s Public Private Partnership programme.
However, it soon became clear that capacity couldn’t cater for the numbers seeking to enrol in Tramore, with the school’s population having grown beyond the 1,000 students originally envisaged.
There are currently 1,170 students (up from 1,132 in 2016-17) with 1,350 projected once an extension is in place. A 2019 opening is being targeted. With a principal and three deputies, teaching staff numbers will increase over the same period from 63 initially to 70 now, and an anticipated 79.
Replying to Deputy Deasy, Education Minister Richard Bruton confirmed: “It is my Department’s intention to provide an extension to the school to meet the demand for additional school accommodation in the area.”
A planning application to proceed with the extension was lodged with Waterford City and County Council last June by contractors BAM Building Ltd, in partnership with the Department.
“My Department has since responded to a request for further information from the Council in that respect,” Mr Bruton said. This information was provided a week before Christmas and a decision is due this week, January 24.
The Minister added: “Subject to the decision of the Council on the matter, it is our intention to then proceed to the final stages of preparing the project for construction and delivery.”
The proposed development would involve modifications and extensions to the existing school building and the construction of a 3-storey extension and additional accessible car-parking spaces.
One of the concerns the Council raised in its request for additional information was traffic management — an issue since the school opened and one which Deasy repeatedly took up with the local authority and senior gardaí, following contacts from staff, parents and residents.
MHL Consulting Engineers carried out a traffic impact report for the Department. To determine expected traffic generation, it surveyed traffic patterns and volumes at four junctions in the immediate vicinity of the school in early October.
It has advised that with better sequencing of traffic lights, no road network layout changes are required to facilitate the expansion. The reduction of cars parked on the road outside the school — something school management have worked to improve with staff — will ensure traffic is able to flow at peak times, its report says. The school also stressed its commitment to encouraging alternative means of transport and initiatives to relieve congestion.
Deputy John Deasy says marketing the Waterford Greenway through the Wild Atlantic Way website would boost tourism business in the county overnight.
While describing the prospect of a Viking coastal drive as an overdue revamp of the existing southeast touring route, the Fine Gael TD is in discussions with Tourism Minister Brendan Griffin with a view to incorporating the Waterford Greenway into the Wild Atlantic Way website.
Visitor numbers to the west of Ireland have soared on the back of the Wild Atlantic Way promotional blitz, which was launched four years ago. However, the Ireland’s Ancient East initiative hasn’t had the same impact since it was introduced as a counterweight in April 2015.
Before that, Deasy met with senior Fáilte Ireland officials and persuaded the tourism authority to allow Waterford City and County Council pitch for inclusion in the Wild Atlantic Way. Ultimately, getting East Cork interests involved — key to connecting the Atlantic coastlines — proved impossible.
He explained: “Once it was clear Waterford wasn’t going to be accepted into the Wild Atlantic Way, I specifically asked the Department of Tourism to take action to address the redundant and obsolete South East Coastal Drive, which includes Waterford’s 147km of coastline.
“Local tourism operators, disappointed at Waterford’s exclusion from the Wild Atlantic Way, highlighted how a coastal driving route already exists between Ardmore and Wexford, with signage erected nearly 20 years ago still in place at various points. But a rebranding was clearly needed.”
Fáilte Ireland has now sought submissions from suitably qualified parties to carry out a feasibility study “to assess the potential of delivering of a Viking Coast proposition as a world-class visitor experience for the coastal counties of the Ireland’s Ancient East geography.”
A request for bids by January 26 was published days before Christmas. The brief is to gauge the viability of “a motivating signature experience for overseas visitors and, if feasible, will recommend how the Viking Coast can be harnessed into a coherent year-round tourism offering.”
These efforts followed suggestions put forward in an economic report underpinning the Waterford councils merger in 2014. That blueprint identified the dual importance of cultural tourism and the potential for “a high quality branded coastal driving route along the UNESCO Copper Coast Geopark.”
Satisfied that the island’s remaining coastal drive deficit “is now being taken seriously”, Deasy says the fact that the (Giant’s) Causeway Coastal Route is mentioned on the Wild Atlantic Way website “sets a precedent for packaging attractions beyond the west of Ireland with the Wild Atlantic Way.”
While the huge investment in the Viking Triangle in the city is obviously part of Fáilte Ireland’s thinking, there are over 300 tourism-related businesses operating along Waterford’s Atlantic coastline — a number of which have thrived due to the Greenway’s instant impact.
“The massive success and appeal of the Waterford Greenway would be a major selling point in terms of promoting attractions along a new South East coastal route,” Deasy added.
“An an immediate step, marketing the Waterford Greenway through the Wild Atlantic Way website — which has proven a huge draw — would vastly expand its potential audience and uptake. Greenways in the west are already included, so adding Waterford should be next,” he says.
“I’m not sure why people are surprised when it comes to continuing tax evasion and tax avoidance as it pertains to certain financial institutions.”
Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach
Debate: Thursday, 14 Dec 2017
Paradise Papers (Resumed): Allied Irish Banks
John Deasy: Regarding the evolution of our laws dealing with tax avoidance and tax evasion, in 2003 the Chairman [John McGuinness TD, pictured] and I sat on the Committee of Public Accounts. At the time it became clear and was accepted that AIB and other banks were involved in tax avoidance of almost an industrial scale with their customers. It was not a matter of conjecture but was proved to be the case. As well as the debates we had at the Committee of Public Accounts in 2003 and 2004, it resulted in a change in the law.
The Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2004 made it an offence to aid and abet, conceal and counsel customers in tax avoidance and tax evasion, but I am not aware of any conviction arising from the Act since. In actual fact, several years ago, relating to HSBC and deposits held in France, the then chairman of the Revenue Commissioners, Ms Josephine Feehily, made it clear that the 2004 Act was completely insufficient.
She made a point that tax inspectors would have to be standing beside the tax official and client to actually prove a case to the criminal level of proof required. That is still the case with regard to our tax evasion laws...
My basic point is that AIB and other banks were involved in the setting up of bogus foreign deposit accounts. Even though the law was changed based on the work we did in 2003, I am dubious about the efficacy and utility of the Act passed in 2004. That has been verbalised by the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners since.
... I am not sure why people are surprised when it comes to continuing tax evasion and tax avoidance as it pertains to certain financial institutions. We need to go back and take a look at the laws which govern this area. Certainly, when it comes to the Revenue Commissioners, they are still of the opinion that the laws are not sufficient when it comes to governing the entire area."