16 September 2010
ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ALARMED AT SPECIAL OLYMPICS FUNDING DEFICIT
Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure (CAL) heard today, from Regional Director of Special Olympics Ulster (SOU), Shaun Cassidy, about the impact the proposed government cuts will have on Special Olympics Ulster. Chair of the CAL Committee, Barry McElduff MLA said, “the Committee is publicly calling on the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Nelson McCausland MLA, to seek an urgent meeting with Ministerial colleagues to discuss the funding deficit currently facing Special Olympics Ulster. The Committee urges that the business case is treated as a priority under the current Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) negotiations.
The Committee has learnt from the SOU delegation that despite two years of work on the Special Olympics Business Case, the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure is unable to approve it on affordability grounds. The Committee also learnt today that the Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey MLA, is unable to contribute to the funding of SOU due to the budget constraints facing his Department, despite the great health benefits for those involved in sport.
Chair of the CAL Committee, Barry McElduff MLA said: “The Committee is deeply disappointed that the Health Minister has refused to provide funding for a very worthwhile organisation which is the world leader in its field. While SOU is a sporting organisation, it provides many benefits including health, social inclusion and education. The Committee will be writing to other Assembly Committees with a remit in this area as a matter of urgency.”
The Committee were warned today by SOU that failure to secure government funding will have a detrimental impact on the hopes and dreams of some 16,000 people with learning disabilities, accessing the Special Olympics programme, regionally, nationally and internationally.
The Committee supports the SOU proposal for cross-departmental funding of £2.66m led by the Sports Minister as outlined in the business case still before him.
Mr McElduff finished by stating: “The Committee will be inviting the Sports Minister, Nelson McCausland MLA, to brief us on the outcome of interdepartmental meetings and as a Committee we will do all we can to advance the case of SOU.”
Special Olympics Ireland ( SOI) is an accredited Olympic organisation by its affiliation to Special Olympics International. The Special Olympics movement is on level par with mainstream Olympics and Para-Olympics but aimed at people with an intellectual disability. The organisation was established here in 1978.
SOU is a year round sports and support organisation delivering to 1,381 athletes in Northern Ireland across 78 Affiliate Groups.
The original presentation for Government funding was presented by SOU on 4 th September 2008 to Departmental Ministers and officials at Stormont Castle.
A delegation from SOU met with the CAL Committee in December 2008.
From December 2008 until September 2009 there were ongoing discussions about the progression of SOU’s request for funding with representatives from both Sport NI and DCAL.
The CAL Committee was briefed again in June 2010 on progress in relation to the business case. The Committee has subsequently learnt that DCAL has not submitted a bid for funding under the CSR, as it does meet DFP criteria for unavoidable or inescapable projects. The Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure is now seeking funding from other departments.
The Chairperson of the Committee is Mr. Barry McElduff MLA.
The Deputy Chairperson is Mr. Declan O’Loan MLA
The Committee has a further nine members:
Mr Dominic Bradley MLA
Mr Thomas Burns
The Lord Browne MLA
Mr David Hilditch MLA
Mr Billy Leonard MLA
Mr Kieran McCarthy MLA
Ms Michelle McIlveen MLA
Mr Raymond McCartney MLA
Mr Ken Robinson MLA
The Clerk to the Committee is Lucia Wilson
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