Sport has a special place in the life of Irish people. The performance of our leading sportsmen and women is a constant topic of conversation and probably the single area of national life taking up most space in the media. High profile national sporting success creates pride and helps to promote our national identity while participation builds friendships, communities and a sense of achievement. Sport touches the life of almost everyone as a participant, administrator, coach or spectator.
There is much in sport of which Ireland can be proud. There is a vibrant sporting culture, unique national games which enjoy widespread support, a tradition of committed voluntary effort and strong support within the Oireachtas and all other areas of Irish life. However, there is also much which should be better in a mature, socially responsible European democracy with a vibrant economy.
There are a large number of organisations involved in sport - but many would benefit from more effective leadership and greater co-ordination. Many young people are disillusioned with sport at an early age, possibly because there is too much emphasis on competition and winning rather than enjoyment and skill.
Participation in sport is still strongly linked with individuals' social and economic circumstances and not everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy the sport of their choice. People with disabilities or learning difficulties tend to be separated rather than integrated. Sport is not yet an integral part of the daily lives of many women and older people. Many sports bodies do not have women in senior executive positions. Sports clubs and governing bodies are finding it more and more difficult to attract new volunteers but are facing ever-increasing demands and expectations.