Belfast Telegraph

Ulster Grand Prix organisers reject claim safety cash used on facilities

Former DUP minister Paul Givan
Former DUP minister Paul Givan
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

The organisers of the Ulster Grand Prix have hit back at claims they used public money intended for safety improvements on club facilities.

A report from the BBC said £255,000 of funding was announced by DUP Minister for Communities Paul Givan for the Ulster Grand Prix in 2017, but only £25,000 was spent on safety bales while the rest was used for building works.

This included £190,000 to refurbish the clubhouse, buildings and riders' paddock, while £40,000 was spent on hard surfacing to improve access for wheelchair users. A total of three riders have been killed on the Dundrod circuit since 2017. Jamie Hodson, from Wigan, and Gavin Lupton, from West Yorkshire, died after crashes at the 2017 race.

French rider Fabrice Miguet died in 2018 at Joey's Windmill, the same spot where Mr Hodson had hit a telegraph pole the year before.

Mr Hodson's girlfriend Rachel McKay told the BBC: "The thing that doesn't rest well with me is the actual amount they've spent on safety, especially if that's what they've been given the money for.

"I don't begrudge them spending money on facilities as they do need updating, but it's the sheer amount of money."

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Ulster Grand Prix organisers, who said safety improvements were a major part of the original funding application but were not the only focus.

A spokesperson for the organisers said that detailed proposals were examined and approved by the minister, officials from the Department for Communities and Sport NI.

They added the buildings have been used to facilitate safety training events.

The spokesperson said: "The organisers of the Ulster Grand Prix motorcycle races did not receive any funding intended for track safety that was used on any other improvements at Dundrod. The organisers totally refute inaccurate inferences suggesting that was the case."

In 2016, the DUP's Paul Givan told this newspaper the tragic death of young rider Malachi Mitchell-Thomas at the North West 200 had inspired him to save lives in the future by investing over £500,000 of government money to improve safety in the sport.

"That is all to do with safety for riders and spectators," he said at the time.

Last month, his party colleague Ian Paisley told the House of Commons "that over £500,000 was contributed into road safety measures".

Yesterday, SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan told the BBC greater scrutiny was needed.

He said: "When £230,000 goes on the refurbishment of a clubhouse and also a block of toilets, huge questions need to be asked as to whether the public and those participating and who love the sport think that's money well spent."

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