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Darach McQuaid knows about bringing Grand Tours to Ireland and he believes Tour de France owners ASO would look favourably on an Irish Tour de France start

By Shane Stokes

This week’s news that Northern Ireland will once again consider a north/south bid to host the Tour de France is, according to Darach McQuaid, something that could have a very positive outcome for the island.

McQuaid played a large role in bringing about the start of the 2014 Giro d’Italia in Belfast and predicts that Tour organisers ASO would be positively disposed if Ireland were to put in a formal bid.

A possible joint bid was first made public in October 2022, but then abandoned last summer by the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland. A major reason was due to complications arising from the lack of a working government in the north.

This changed on February 3rd when the Executive returned.

“I was very happy to see the NI Executive up and running,” McQuaid told Stickybottle this week. “Apart from high profile event bids such as the proposed Tour de France Start, I have no doubt the citizens of NI will be glad their institutions are back.

“Ireland, north and south, has a proven track record in Grand Tour big starts, with successful Tour de France and Giro d’Italia events staged here.

“The economic returns from these high profile sporting events are proven and I would be confident that an all island bid to host the Tour de France would be well received by the organisers.”

McQuaid’s elder brother Pat was heavily involved in bringing the Tour de France to Ireland in 1998. That event should have been a big boost to Irish cycling but instead saw the sport plunged into scandal when the Festina Affair broke.

A cross border bid from this island could—in theory—have extra currency with ASO on the basis that Ireland’s investment didn’t pay off last time around.

The cross-border nature of such a bid would also carry a powerful message showing how long-lasting political tensions and conflict can be overcome.

News that the previous north/south consideration of a bid had run into trouble only became clear in January, although it had been disclosed in the Dail in December, escaping media attention.

In January both the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy (DfE) and Irish Minister for State Thomas Byrne indicated that future bids could potentially occur.

This now seems to be more of a possibility after the North’s Economy Minister Conor Murphy indicated that the return of the Executive had created a climate where a bid could potentially be considered.

“In July 2023 discussions on a potential all-Ireland bid to host the Tour de France Grand Depart were suspended largely due to the absence of an Executive,” he said during ministerial question time.

“Since coming into post I have instructed my officials to reopen that dialogue,” he said.

If the north/south bid were to proceed, it remains to be seen if it would be for the same target of either 2026 or 2027, or if the time lost would mean that later years would be chosen.

Cycling Ireland greeted last week’s news by telling stickybottle in a statement: “Cycling Ireland is pleased that the Ireland and Northern Ireland governments are to restart discussions for a bid to host a future Tour De France Grand Depart.

“We look forward to assisting government officials in the planning and bidding processes for future major cycling events in Ireland such as the Tour De France Grand Depart.”

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