THE ISLAND of Ireland may play host to host the opening stages of Tour de France in the future after the pursuit of a North-South bid was announced yesterday.
Minister Catherine Martin T.D. and Minister Gordon Lyons MLA submitted an expression of interest in the formal bidding process to the Tour organisers, and officials in both Departments will now collaborate on the development of a detailed bid to host the event.
The departments say the hosting of the stages would "ideally" be in 2026 or 2027.
Last week the ministers discussed the potential bid in Belfast, and agreed that such an event would have "significant tourism, sports and wider benefits for the island of Ireland."
"Our shared experience in hosting major sports events, our cooperative approach in marketing the entire island of Ireland as a tourism destination, and the wonderful scenery and céad míle fáilte that awaits visitors to Ireland could all combine to create and amazing all-island event."
Lyons echoed those comments, and said it "would be a fantastic opportunity for Northern Ireland to feature on the world stage and add to the growing list of major sporting events that have come here ins recent years."
Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan welcomed the news that both departments are working together on the bid.
"News that government departments on both sides of the border are coming together to launch a bid to stage sections of the Tour de France is an exciting development," he said.
“The Tour de France came to Dublin in 1998 and was extremely successful, both economically and in the promotion of cycling on this island.
"A successful bid would once again unlock huge benefits right across the island, particularly for our tourism industry.
"Cycling has grown massively in popularity across Ireland in recent years so there is no better time to bring this international set piece back to our shores."
The proposal to explore a joint bid for the Grand Départ builds on previous appearances by cycling’s grand tours on the island.
Le Grand Départ came to Ireland in 1998 and then, in 2014, the Giro d’Italia took place largely in Northern Ireland with the third stage finishing in Dublin.
Both events proved hugely popular and demonstrated the passion for cycling that exists on both sides of the border.