Mr Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist MLA and Chairman of the Stormont Employment and Learning Committee, has challenged the DUP Tourism Minister “to invest a significant section of her funding into tourism in the constituency to help boost the North Antrim economy”.
Assemblyman Swann, who is UUP Chief Whip and North Antrim UUP Chairman, issued his challenge following a question to the minister.
Mr Swann had asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, who is responsible for tourism, what impact the cancellation of Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s Tourism Events Fund for 2014-16 will have on events in the three council areas which comprise the North Antrim constituency – Ballymoney, Ballymena, and Moyle.
Responding to Assemblyman Swann, the Minister said: “There is no way to gauge impact at present.
“Currently international events which straddle these areas have already received three-year funding offers from 2014 and will not be affected by the current funding situation. Letters of Offer and contractual commitments have already been issued and signed.
“The nature of the Events Sponsorship Fund is that organisers apply to the fund annually and therefore there is never any guarantee of receiving funding.
“When applicants apply to the scheme, applications are assessed alongside all the other applications through a competitive process therefore no one has ever any guarantee of funding any year,” the Minister told Mr Swann.
Mr Swann added: “After receiving this answer I was contacted by Bill Kennedy, President and Clerk of the Course of the Armoy Motorcycle Road Racing Club, as they have expressed serious concerns that the withdrawl of this support will have “a major and potentially disastrous effect on the Race of legends and calls into question whether the Club will be in a position to successfully deliver the event in 2015,” having attended the race in the past as a guest of Mr Kennedy, I hope the Minister realises the valuable contribution the Armoy races make to the local area and Road Racing in North Antrim.”
Mr Swann continued: “Tourism is a major part of the North Antrim economy, so I am calling upon the minister to invest a significant slice of her budget in tourism events in the constituency, which in turn will help re-generate the constituency’s economy given the recent bad news about JTI jobs in Ballymena
“What reassurance she can give Armoy Motorcycle Road Racing Club that the lack of this funding will not have a disastrous effect on the “Race of Legends”, as expressed in their letter to her on the 13th of October?” asked Mr Swann.