NI could suffer as location for sports events without devolved government

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy on the chipping range ahead of the British Masters at Close House Golf Club, Newcastle.
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy on the chipping range ahead of the British Masters at Close House Golf Club, Newcastle.

Major golf tournaments in Northern Ireland could face problems unless political leadership is restored, a DUP MP has said.

Ian Paisley also cited football tournaments, motor racing and Red Bull air races as forthcoming events that needed decisions taken that were too controversial for civil servants.

The North Antrim MP said he felt the Government did not have the guts to pursue devolved government without Sinn Fein, and was now being pushed towards the prospect of direct rule.

“Northern Ireland wants to be an events location,” Mr Paisley said.

“We have next year the major golf tournament coming to my neighbour’s constituency, and the year after that the British Open.

“Determinations and decisions will have to be made in January of next year to make those events go ahead without any problem.

“We will have a number of events, for example our Milk Cup, our Super Cup football tournament, our events to do with the North West 200.

“All decisions for financing those events, all decisions to do with, for example, whether or not we will have the Red Bull air races taking place in Northern Ireland.

“Those decisions will have to be made in January. That will require political direction and political determination.

“It will not be taken by a civil servant. In fact, I know that civil servants will be reluctant to go anywhere near those areas and start making those types of decisions, because they might be too controversial for them.”

Mr Paisley said it was important not to have “drift” and a lack of leadership in Northern Ireland, saying that “there’s a certain type of Irish man who will fill the vacuum”.

He added: “I think that it’s incumbent on Government to recognise that if they’re not prepared to let the train of devolution go on forward without Sinn Fein’s participation on their terms and their terms only, then it’s about time the Government then stepped in and either allowed devolution without them, or had direct rule.

“We are actually standing at that point.

“Is it going to be direct rule, or is it going to be devolution without Sinn Fein’s active participation.

“I don’t think the Government has the guts to go for the latter one, and I think they’re now timidly being pushed towards this issue of direct rule.”