Opening address by Minister of State for the Gaeltacht and Sport, Jack Chambers TD, for Olympic Federation of Ireland AGM
As a lifelong sports fan – and some-time participant – it was a privilege to be appointed Minister with responsibility for Sport earlier in the summer.
Olympic Sports play a huge role in Irish society and over the years have given us some fantastic occasions to cherish. My childhood sporting memories include so many incredible days glued to the television screen as Irish athletes competed in far-flung Olympic destinations all around the world.
So it is a real pleasure for me to be here today to open the 2020 AGM for the Olympic Federation of Ireland.
Each of the 39 sports represented here have played a very important part in developing, nurturing and supporting the athletes involved so that they have been able to compete with, and sometimes to be, the best in the world.
That instils a source of real pride in all of us and a source of inspiration for so many aspiring athletes of all ages.
I want to congratulate and thank you all for the hard work that you put in to make that happen. It doesn’t happen by accident. Success only happens by design.
Having met with so many sports clubs, bodies and organisations – both locally and nationally in my role as a public representative and now minister – I fully appreciate how tough a year it has been for the athletes and for the sports that you represent.
Especially having come off such a successful 2019 where 80 major medals were achieved by programmes in receipt of High Performance funding from Sport Ireland.
As we look forward to Tokyo, please know that this Government is committed to supporting Olympic Sports, and recognises the importance of High Performance Sport.
Earlier in the summer, the Expert Group on the Return to Sport issued protocols on international travel for high performance athletes. This should assist athletes that need to travel, especially those who are still looking to qualify for the Olympics.
We also made sure sport was included in the July Provision and I hope the €70m fund will help the different sports bodies and clubs undo some of the damage caused by Covid and allow them to kick on now.
Looking forward, we will launch the High Performance Strategy, which sets out a roadmap of investment and partnerships that need to happen to improve the Irish system so that it can produce greater consistency at the highest international levels.
I would like to congratulate the Olympic Federation of Ireland, Sport Ireland, and the Sport Ireland Institute for the very impressive work, investment and combined approach to supporting our athletes.
The developments in Sport Science and Medical Support and the continued investment in centres of excellence – like Rowing and Sailing – are producing results. Results that I and this Government are determined to support.
I am also very proud the National Sports Campus has its home in my own Dublin West constituency and I have been fortunate to visit it on numerous occasions.
The campus is transformed from even just a couple of years ago and I am very excited by the ambitious plans for its continued development.
Everyone here in this room is involved in the leadership, administration and Governance of their organisations. That can be a huge positive force, but we all know what happens and the damaging effects on our sports when good governance is missing.
It is vital that we continue to focus on that area. I am particularly happy to have seen that very important changes made at the Olympic Federation of Ireland in recent years under the leadership of Sarah Keane and Peter Sherrard.
I am very happy to see the proposed Minimum Gender Balance of 40% on the OFI Board, which is to be voted on by the members today. Hopefully we will see this positive change reflected in the broader membership organisations.
Diversity, in all of its forms, is vitally important for good decision making on Boards, to avoid group-think and to ensure proper representation for our athletes.
It is another important step in your development that I would like to congratulate you all for proposing and, hopefully, taking.
I want to wish you a good AGM and the very best for your respective sports over the coming months.
Finally, good luck to our Olympic hopefuls who are going to be competing in upcoming qualifying events. I look forward to cheering on Team Ireland in the reorganised event next summer and hopefully we can create some new moments that will live long in the memory.