Seán Kyne, TD for Galway West, Government Chief Whip and Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, refused to be drawn on any potential impropriety in the allocation of government funding for sports projects in the constituencies of leading ministers.
Speaking on Tuesday's OTB AM about the €20 million that had been allocated via two government programmes to Connacht Rugby for the redevelopment of The Sportsground, Kyne, whose constituency of Galway West hosts the venue, dismissed the notion that funding had been decided by anything other than the project's merit and the proficiency demonstrated throughout the application process.
"They deserve the investment and they'll put it to good use," he noted of a project he described as finishing second on a list of proposals for Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund (LSSIF).
"I'm not the Minister for Sport, so [you cannot] accuse me of being able to interfere in the allocation of funding.
"Certainly I lobbied for it, absolutely, as did other politicians in the west. I make no apologies for that."
Of the estimated €66 million that remained after €10 million had been put aside for The Sportsground in the government's new LSSIF, the significant amount of money awarded to Kyne's constituency was exceeded in Shane Ross' own constituency of Dublin-Rathdown; €10.25 million was allocated to two separate projects in Ross' local area.
Along with a further €8 million given to Galway city for an Aquatic and Fitness Centre, an estimated €30 million of the €77 million available went to projects in the constituencies of Ross and Kyne.
The disproportionate benefit felt within the constituencies of leading ministers has been a recurring feature of capital sports grants.
In 2006, a report in the Irish Times detailed how the constituency of the Minister for Sport John O'Donoghue (Kerry South) received sports funding in excess of what 18 other counties received in 2005.
When Jim McDaid held the office prior to O'Donoghue, his native county of Donegal received the highest amount of money per person in the country. Throughout the same period, Kildare similarly felt the bonus of having Charlie McCreevy as the head of the Department of Finance.
Speaking in 2006, former Fine Gael leader of the Seanad Brian Hayes condemned the inescapable local interest of these national grants: "[It is] the personification of political patronage."
I am delighted to confirm a total investment of €20m for the redevelopment of the Sportsground in Galway. In additon to the €10m from the Large Scale Sports Infrastructure, a further €10m has been committed to the project by the Government. @connachtrugby pic.twitter.com/UhQy06OGjp
— Seán Kyne #FanÁitiúil (@SeanKyneSenator) January 10, 2020
"What's wrong with funding projects based on their rankings," argued Kyne, refuting once more that the projects had been funded for any reason other than their effectiveness in the application process. "I mean, I didn't come up with the rankings, I didn't come up with the scoring, that was done based on applications.
"Obviously the funding sought and received is testament to the quality of the application.
"I don't know what projects were funded in Shane Ross' constituency, but I know what has been funded in my own area and I can justify them on the rankings that were achieved."
You can watch back Minister Seán Kyne TD discussing the issue of government funding in full here.