ERIC NELLIGAN: Time to Reopen Sports Fields: Aontú advocating for getting young people back playing Sport
Aontú Representative for Castletroy & Annacotty in Limerick City, Eric Nelligan, is calling on all sporting representative bodies and other interested organisations to lobby the government to allow young people back onto the sports fields. This collective action needs to happen now so that these valuable activities are given the green light to recommence when the Cabinet makes its next announcement.
Mr Nelligan is a secondary school teacher. ‘’My assistant principal role in St Munchin’s College is the College ‘Gamesmaster’, basically I’m the person who ensures sport runs in the College. St Munchin’s College, one of the most well-known Rugby schools in the country shows the value that Sport brings to young people’s lives. I coach the 1st year’s rugby teams: the vast majority of first year boys choose to play rugby and get a taste for the sport, they also experience the comradeship and fun that it entails.
“As a parent of children that play sport, I see the cost, both in my children and in my students at school. Disappearing personalities, children withdrawing entirely within themselves, right up to severe mental health difficulties, and even self-harm. Sport might not be the answer to everything, but it will certainly help, as the structure offered by sport is so important in young people’s lives.
“As with everything Covid-related we must follow the science, in these circumstances. The science is clear – this can all be done safely. Other jurisdictions have done it: France, The Netherlands, Sweden, Italy – these are all countries where youth sport is being preserved through accredited sports clubs right now. They recognise that it’s safe. They’ve looked at the science.”
The educator in Mr Nelligan has seen young people rely on their phones as a crutch over the last 11 months, he fears this will have long-term implications if it continues to be their main outlet. “Young people have been at home for the majority of the past year, they spend hours each day in front of screens for online learning. Some are not going outside for fresh air or seeing the light of day for extended periods, this is not a healthy nor happy lifestyle.”
The main sporting bodies are not in a position to criticise the Government over this dangerous policy. As with society, sporting bodies are struggling for funding and are currently very reliant on taxpayer funding to ‘keep the lights on’. There are livelihoods at stake so organisations can’t be seen to rock the boat.
‘Having witnessed first-hand the consequences of the absence of sport as a parental and educator, these children and young people need a voice, they need someone to highlight what they’ve sacrificed. Someone needs to lead the charge on reopening the sport fields’’ concludes Eric.