Hosting the WRC is an unmissable opportunity - Paisley

Hosting the WRC is  an unmissable opportunity - Paisley

Talks continue about bringing the WRC here in 2020.

By Jason Craig

Reporter:

By Jason Craig

Email:

Jason.Craig@thechronicle.uk.com

Northern Ireland hosting the British round of the World Rally Championship (WRC) as early as next year "can" and "should happen", the House of Commons has heard.

During an adjournment debate on Monday night, North Antrim MP Ian Paisley told the UK government "it is an opportunity we cannot miss". 

WRC promoters have previously said that they would like to move Rally GB out of Wales for 2020, with Northern Ireland the preferred destination.

Expectations among fans were raised last month when John McGrillen, the head of Tourism Northern Ireland, told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that talks had taken place between his colleagues and representatives from the WRC.

Mr Paisley, who is the head of the Motorsport Taskforce that was established in 2017 to examine the economic and cultural benefits of two- and four-wheel sport, said a WRC round had the potential to be even bigger than the Open Championship.

"I would love to see a World Rally Championship round coming to Northern Ireland," he said.

"We have John McGrillen, the head of Tourism Northern Ireland, saying that getting it in Northern Ireland is a real prospect and, importantly, the head of WRC saying he wants to take the sport to Northern Ireland. That is an opportunity that we should not miss.

"It would make the Open we are about to have in Northern Ireland look like small fry in terms of world marketing opportunities, world access to television rights and, importantly, spectator opportunities.

"Moreover, it would not just take place in one corner of Northern Ireland; a WRC event would take place not only in the city of Belfast, but in the north of Northern Ireland, and in the east and west. These major events suck in the entire population. The benefit and enjoyment of the event would be for all."

Mr Paisley said the UK government had the ability to exercise its powers in a positive way following the controversial decision by MPs earlier this month to liberalise access to abortion and legalise same-sex marriage here unless Stormont is up-and-running before October 31.

"I am not going to talk about what happened in the House last week, but when it suits the Government, and when it suits this place, they can intervene in Northern Ireland and make things happen, and I appeal to them to give a fair wind to the development of the WRC in Northern Ireland next year," he said.

"It can happen, and it should happen. I urge the Minister [The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, John Penrose] - who, I know, has a personal interest in this subject - to consider the opportunities, and to consider his own legacy: he could be the Minister who laid the foundations that allowed a WRC to happen in Northern Ireland."

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