Candidates at Friday’s election debate were asked what they would do to ‘exploit’ The Open Golf Championships, which will be hosted by Royal Portrush in 2019.
In his opening speech, David Harding, NI Conservative candidate described the event as ‘the greatest opportunity’ stating that it would be the biggest event in Ireland.
He told those present that meetings were taking place fortnightly at Council for planning purposes.
Harding stressed that there must be a ‘dividend for the rest of the community’ from the event
He added that those who attend the championships were ‘not your average tourist’, and claimed that they spent an average of £900 per day.
Independent candidate Claire Sugden was critical of Stormont, questioning why none of the £27 million promised to Portrush was ‘not on the ground’.
As we exclusively revealed last month, the £27 million from the Department of Social Development, will see regeneration projects taking place across the seaside town in the run up to the championships in 2019.
The funding, first promised back in 2015, will come in two tranches - £17 million for projects that could be completed prior to The Open, and a second tranche of £10 million, which will be used for the redevelopment of the harbour area.
The money for the harbour redevelopment will not be released to 2020/21.
Sugden said: “We need to create a legacy from The Open, but we must learn from the Irish Open - we need a multi agency approach, what do the businesses want to get out of it,” she questioned.
Alliance candidate Yvonne Boyle told those present that it was ‘all about communication’.
“We have the opportunity to reach millions of people,” she said.
UUP candidate William McCandless reassured the audience that there was ‘massive amounts’ of work going on by Council.
He said that perhaps Council needed to ‘blow their own trumpets more’ and get information out there. He said that in his role as a councillor he would speak with the Chief Executive about the issue.
Commenting further, McCandless said: “All of these people will need accomodation, and already we know there is not enough, it’s about increasing bed nights in this area,” he said.
DUP candidate Adrian McQuillan highlighted the £27 million promised to the area by DUP Minister Lord Morrow, which he said he had pushed for.
He was however critical of businesses in the area.
He pointed out that at 5pm on a Thursday night there was no where open to get a cup of tea in Portrush, “the business people of Portrush need to do something for themselves too,” he said.
“We must leave a legacy,” said the DUP man.
Responding, Independent candidate Sugden added: “I think we need to encourage the business community to speak to the Council.”
HAVE YOUR SAY?
The election to the Northern Ireland Assembly will take place on 5 May 2016.
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