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Irish bid to host Grand Depart of Tour de France pulled

The island of Ireland bid to host the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in either 2026 or 2027 has been withdrawn.

Last year, Catherine Martin TD, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and Minister Gordon Lyons MLA submitted an expression of interest in the formal bidding process to the Tour organisers.

Ireland last hosted Le Grand Départ in 1998 and the prospect of a Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland co-bid was seen as mutually beneficial.

However, current Minister of State at the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Thomas Byrne confirmed to RTÉ Radio today that the bid has been shelved due to a lack of a functioning government in Northern Ireland.

Minister Byrne said: “The bid was just about on the table in that there was genuine interest between Catherine Martin and Gordon Lyons at the time to do this from an economic, touristic and sporting perspective.

“But quite frankly with the lack of an elected political government in Northern Ireland, the civil servants who are effectively running the show aren’t able to proceed with this. They simply don’t have the funding. It simply can’t happen, it can’t get off the ground. It’s a real pity actually.

“We would have loved to have done it.”

He said it did not come under consideration for the Republic of Ireland to solely take on a bid and hopes to see the proposal revisited in the future, particularly if a political solution is found in Northern Ireland.

He also said the bid was at a very early stage with limited costs incurred.

“It was always envisaged as a cross-border initiative and indeed some of my engagements with counterparts in France in recent months, it was very much advertised as a cross-border initiative and something we would do together as an all-island bid, bringing both sides together, and it makes obvious sense geographically. This was the entire basis of it.

“The position now is we have had to tell the Tour de France and French authorities that we are not in a position to go ahead with it. It is something we would like to do and the engagement we have had up to now with colleagues in France including Tour de France organisers and the embassies will be useful if we do decide to do it.

“We are very, very willing to step up to the plate with counterparts in the North to do it or at least to look at it because all of these projects have to go through a rigorous cost benefit analysis in the departments.

“We would like to get it to that stage and I don’t think the work we have done is wasted but it will depend on political leadership in the North deciding this is something they would like to do. I think it would be of benefit to us all.”

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