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I'll fight to save future of cash-strapped Ulster Grand Prix, vows Sports Minister

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In doubt: there are real fears surrounding the Ulster Grand Prix

In doubt: there are real fears surrounding the Ulster Grand Prix

In doubt: there are real fears surrounding the Ulster Grand Prix

Sports Minister Deirdre Hargey insists nobody in Northern Ireland wants to lose the Ulster Grand Prix, adding she will work with Economy Minister Diane Dodds to see what can be done to save the legendary motorcycling road race meeting.

Last month, Ulster Grand Prix organisers revealed that the meeting's future was still in doubt despite talks with local politicians aimed at securing funding for the cash-strapped event.

The Dundrod and District Motorcycling Club, who organise the Ulster Grand Prix, said that a "crisis situation remains" after it was disclosed in November that debts in the region of £250,000 had created huge financial problems for the race.

In a statement, the club said: "Over the past months, the race organisers have met with a host of public representatives, including councillors, Westminster MPs, MLAs and other government officials.

"Representation has also been made to the recently restored NI Assembly and the Department for Communities Minister.

"Whilst there has been a sympathetic hearing to the UGP's plight, the crisis situation remains.

"Discussions continue but, so far, no financial assistance has been made available as we move into the period when preparation for the 2020 event should have been well under way."

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the well-briefed Hargey said: "There has been a concern. This event will be 100-years-old in 2022 and nobody would want to see that lost.

"It plays an important role in terms of the sporting fabric here.

"My Department doesn't fund the Ulster Grand Prix directly. It comes out of the Department of Economy because it is seen to be an event which attracts tourism in numbers to the North. We have supported it in the last couple of years in terms of health and safety and have put financial investment in that.

"There was the board set up by the previous Minister to oversee the future direction and obviously there will be a strategy and we have put money into that.

"I wrote to the Minister of Economy when this came to light and met with Diane (Dodds) about the concerns and the debt they are in.

"It would be hard for an Executive to retrospectively fund or cover that debt, so there is a challenge there for the Grand Prix themselves and how they deal with that.

"Importantly, it is how we secure it going forward. I have met with Diane and she has met with officials as well and it is something she is looking at addressing.

"We will meet again in the near future to see what can be done."

Belfast Telegraph