By Duncan Mackay

Bethany Firth with London 2012 medalMarch 21 - Ireland's preparations for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro have received a significant boost after they were awarded €910,000 (£774,000/$1.2 million) in new funding from the Government. 

There is also direct financial support to 25 Paralympic athletes totalling €604,000 (£514,000/$779,000) under the Irish Sports Council's International Carding scheme.

The funding comes after the success of Ireland's team at London 2012 where they won a total of 16 medals, including eight gold, their best performance for 24 years.

The announcement, made by Minister for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring, was part of a package of support to Irish high performance sport of €8.6 million (£7.3 million/$11.1 million).

When 2012 investment in specific Games costs are excluded, the investment package represents a 10 per cent year on year increase for Paralympics Ireland. 

In the past Paralympics Ireland has suffered up to 40 per cent in funding in the year immediately after the Games.

But the performances in London last year from the likes of swimmer Bethany Firth (pictured top), winner of the women's 100 metres backstroke in the S14 category, and Jason Smyth, winner of the 100m and 200m T13 for the second consecutive Paralympics, have ensured that funding has been maintained at a high level. 

Jason Smyth with flag London 2012Jason Smyth was one of the stars of London 2012, winning the 100m and 200m in the T13 category for the second Paralympics in a row

Smyth and Firth are among ten Irish Paralympic athletes who will receive the maximum amount of individual funding of €40,000 (£34,000/$52,000) for 2013.

Others on the top level include Michael McKillop, winner of the 800m and 1500m in the T37 class at London 2012, and cyclist Mark Rohan, who took gold in the H1 road race and time trial.

"The response of the Government and the Irish Sports Council to the great success of London 2012 with this investment package is very significant for Paralympics Ireland and sets us on a sound path to further sustained progress on the road to Rio 2016," said Liam Harbison, chief executive of Paralympics Ireland. 

Harbison claimed that the investment would help ensure they "remain 'fit for purpose' as an organisation to deliver top class services to Paralympic athletes."

Paralympics Ireland is due to publish its debrief report on London 2012 later this month but preparations have already started for Rio 2016. 

"The four year performance plan for Rio can now be implemented in full with increased support to sports, sports science and medical provision and improved levels of professional technical expertise to assist athletes," said Nancy Chillingworth, Paralympic Ireland's performance director. 

"The plan sets us on a path to sustained success at Rio 2016 commencing with major championships in each sport over the coming six months with athletes already targeting qualification slots for the Games.

"Continued investment growth throughout the next four years is essential for Paralympic sport to continue the huge strides made in London."

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