Sport Ireland has announced the introduction of a maternity policy. It will see carded athletes receive a 12-month guarantee of funding should they become pregnant.
The move comes following extensive research and consultation with stakeholders across the high performance network. There will also be a comprehensive system of supports available which will help athletes return to their sport following the significant life event.
"The development of this policy is a very significant step in the support offered towards female athletes in this country," said former Ireland international rugby player Lynne Cantwell, who is chair of the Sport Ireland Women in Sport steering group.
Introducing the maternity leave policy sends a strong message that Sport Ireland’s vision for women in sport is one where woman have an equal opportunity to achieve their full potential, while enjoying a lifelong involvement in sport.
In the past, choosing to have a child during your athletic career has been a stressful decision for many athletes, with fears around funding and support being huge factors.
I firmly believe that female athletes should feel supported in their decision to have a child, both throughout their pregnancy and in their return to sport.
The decision by Sport Ireland to guarantee funding for 12 months for pregnant athletes is a very progressive stance and one that the Sport Ireland Women in Sport Steering Group and I welcome wholeheartedly.
It is a positive time to be a female athlete in Ireland and I look forward to seeing our female athletes have peace of mind, knowing that Sport Ireland support them at this important life stage.
Olive Loughnane, who won silver in the 20km race walk at the 2009 World Athletics Championships, welcomed the development.
"As one of many athletes whose best performances followed the birth of my daughter, I'm really excited the see the introduction of this policy," she said.
"It is really positive that female sportspeople will be able to make a life choice that is right for them, safe in the knowledge that they will be supported by their NGB (National Governing Body) and Sport Ireland."
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