Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Easter rally organisers now exploring re-schedule

Conditions like these near Castlewellan led to the rally being cancelled

The organisers of the Easter Stages Rally, called off because of the weekend blizzard which has left parts of the province still blanketed in snow, are exploring the possibility of re-scheduling the event for later in the year.

The decision to cancel was taken in light of the hardship being faced by residents in areas where the rally was due take place. It would have used roads in the Dromara Hills, around Slieve Croob, which are buried under snowdrifts of up to 12 feet.

Rally director Bobby Willis explained: "People in the area, particularly farmers, are facing critical issues at the moment, including the loss of livestock. We therefore decided it was inappropriate for the rally to continue.

"As well as conveying sensitivity to people in the area at this time of hardship, our fear was also that the road closures that are necessary for the rally to run could further hamper crucial access in the area or put additional pressure on emergency services.

"We are currently exploring alternatives to run the rally at a later date but while this been a huge setback, our sights are now firmly set on the Circuit of Ireland 2014 and returning the European Rally Championship to Northern Ireland. Over the next week we will have a clearer vision of where we go from here and we will let everyone know."

The one-day Triton Showers Easter Rally was set to replace this year's international Circuit which was postponed due to insufficient funding.

It was scheduled to start in Lisburn on Saturday morning and finish in Ballynahinch. "We are all disappointed and for sure the competitors will be, too," said Willis, "but we must remember that this is a sport, and right now there are more pressing issues in the area. The farmers and residents are having a terrible time. We should be thinking of them."

Three-times Northern Ireland champion Kenny McKinstry, who would have been one of the favourites for the rally, said he was "disappointed but totally supportive" of the decision.

"There are more important issues going on at the moment than running a rally, much as I was looking forward to it, but the organisers have made the right call," he said.

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