Dundalk FC manager Vinny Perth has called on the Government to re-think the decision of having sport included along with five other portfolios in the new Cabinet, describing it as “one of the worst decisions I’ve seen in a long, long time.”
At the weekend, new Taoiseach Micheál Martin appointed Catherine Martin as the new Minister for Media, Tourism, Art, Culture, Sports and the Gaeltacht.
There has been widespread criticism of the number of roles that the Green Party’s deputy leader will have to fulfil as part of her remit with even Fianna Fáil TDs criticising the role.
Asked about the matter, Perth said the fact sport was being bundled in with a half a dozen other roles showed the level of importance it was given in this country.
“The gyms are allowed open on the same day as the pubs so that shows you where Irish sport is in the list of priorities,” he said.
“The one thing I thought the lockdown did was it gave a real insight into what sport can do for people. We had people putting up world record paces for 5k runs etc and all of a sudden now it’s just dropped in with a load of other bits and pieces and I don’t think it’s good enough.
“As a society, we must fight against that. The Government need to look at the error.
“Whatever about soccer if it’s left behind because it doesn’t suit parish pump politics, sport can’t be left behind. Society must do something about it because sport fixes so much in society.
“There’s no way the new Minister can be on top of the brief of all of these things given how much is involved in sport. It’s hugely disappointing. I’m flabbergasted by that decision,” he said.
Indeed, Perth said he had sympathy for Catherine Martin.
“I don’t know enough about the new Minister to comment on her but if, for example, she has a background or particular interest in sport then that’s great but then the other four or five things like culture etc will ultimately suffer because she can’t possibly do her job right.
“Sport is too big to be thrown in with that sort of mix.
“If you think of the logic of it, what chance has the FAI got of getting a meeting with the Minister? They might get it but you’re fighting with seven or eight other bodies within your own field as well as all the other bodies in the other categories she will be representing.
“The way we look at sport in this country is ridiculous when you compare ourselves to similar sized countries. We just look at it with the wrong mindset.
“If you look at somewhere like New Zealand and ask why they’re able to have so many medals at the Olympics, it’s because sport means something to their society. In Ireland it doesn’t mean a thing but all the politicians will be there when the lads come back with gold medals.
“It’s probably one of the worst decisions I’ve seen in a long, long time. What an opportunity we had coming out of lockdown. Between the amount of people who missed sport and then those who took it up between bikes and running etc, there was a window of opportunity there and it’s diluted now.”
The Lilywhites boss re-iterated his call for the portfolio to be revisited.
“What has happened is just very disappointing. I’m shocked by the decision.
“I think it’s an awful decision and we must lobby for it to change.
“There’s tonnes of benefits to sport from the mental health side to the physical side and it deserves to have greater importance. 25 or 30 years ago fellas my age went to the pub three or four nights a week but now they go for a run, to the gym or play five-a-side football and that has to be welcomed. It’s good for health etc but we need to push that on and grow it even more. If the pub is being replaced, we should be making sure there’s places to go,” he said.