I thank Deputy Cowen for bringing forward the issue, which many of us have been fighting at local level through our clubs. When I was secretary of my local rugby club, this issue arose continually. Other speakers have highlighted the fact that club members work voluntarily to pay a tax on their premises. A brother of mine runs a pub. The nature of the two businesses must be classified properly. While I support the thrust of the Bill, each case, and each clubhouse, is individual. In some clubhouses, the whole area is used as a function area, while in others the area includes dressing rooms, showers and an indoor training area.
It is sad that in 2001, as Deputy McEntee noted, there was an opportunity for us to deal with the issue and Deputy Cowen’s party failed to do that. I welcome his bringing forward the Bill today as a number of us have raised similar issues concerning the rates for Croke Park and the Aviva stadium, as well as the clubs in our communities. I would like to see a direction from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government about local issues, and perhaps the best way to deal with the matter is locally. County managers can make decisions about how to collect rates on various premises, for example. In my county when Intel was refurbishing its building, there was a derogation on rates. Some places have rates applied when they are occupied but when they are unoccupied, there is no charge, and such an arrangement is allowable within the local remit. Perhaps something could be done for club premises with a bar facility and a large function area that has multiple purposes, such as use for indoor bowls or training children. When the function area is used commercially, a specific licence could be purchased instead of rates being paid all the time. At least in that case, the commercial premises down the road, whether it is a pub or hotel, could see fairness in an application. When the club is using a facility for a sporting or community project, there would be no charge, but when it is used for a commercial purpose, some licence fee would be paid.
I implore all clubs to actively engage with local county managers so as to formulate some type of solution. If a clubhouse just has a bar and the premises for training, togging out and showering are in a different building, rates should be applied appropriately. If clubs engage with local county managers, a solution can be reached. I support the thrust of the Bill but I would find it very difficult to put something into legislation that could cover all issues on the ground. Perhaps local council members could have much more input into how this could be done, and it can be difficult for us as the national Parliament to legislate in a way that covers all aspects.
There is an ongoing matter concerning Croke Park and the Garth Brooks concerts. I have two tickets for one of the days for which no licence was granted. Punchestown is an exceptional venue that would be available to host all five concerts, should Mr. Brooks decide to pull out of Croke Park. It is wrong that a person can purchase a ticket for an event subject to a licence. Many people have planned holidays, flights and hotel accommodation, so if an event is planned, it should be fully licensed before tickets go on sale.
Deputy Anthony Lawlor: I am trying to ensure I can use my two tickets. In Kildare we have a super venue that has hosted many concerts, including Witnness and Oxegen. Deputy Cowen probably attended some of them.