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Call to bring Open to Northern Ireland after heroics by Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowellI

Irish Opposition leader Enda Kenny last night called for the Open to return to Northern Ireland in the wake of the “outstanding” achievements of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy.

The prestigious golf tournament has only ever taken place once outside England, Scotland and Wales — when it was held in Portrush, Co Antrim, in 1951.

At the launch of his party's cross-border forum report in Cavan town yesterday, Fine Gael leader Mr Kenny said the return of the Open to Northern Ireland could coincide with the planned visit of the Queen to the Republic for the first time ever.

“There isn't any reason why, at some time in the future, the British Open Championship should not be played in Northern Ireland, probably in the Royal County Down Golf Club, giving some recognition to the outstanding qualities of those young men who are promoters and ambassadors for Ireland around the world,” he said.

Mr Kenny also said that Tourism Ireland should be bringing US golf promoters here “for nothing” to promote the country as the “home of champions” in the wake of the recent victories by McDowell and McIlroy.

A Tourism Ireland spokeswoman said last night this was an

“excellent idea” — and one which they were already doing with US and British golf tour operators.

The cross-border forum report launched by Mr Kenny was drawn up to provide solutions for the region, which has been badly hit by the loss of 940 jobs in the Quinn group two months ago.

It contained a recommendation to set up a multi-agency task force, and to improve co-operation between the Republic’s Industrial Development Agency and its northern equivalent, Invest NI.

“There is no magic wand. There is no pot of new money to sort out everybody's problems,” he said.

But Mr Kenny said his party would be adopting the report as policy if it got into government.

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