NORTH Antrim MP Ian Paisley has praised the leadership shown by the organisers of the NW200 in postponing this year’s motorbike race event because of coronavirus.
Mr Paisley – himself a big motorbike fan – said on Tuesday he had spoken with the Race Clerk of the Course Mervyn White and discussed the North West 200 2020 race.
Mr Paisley said the decision has been taken to postpone the race this May given the Government advice on the spread of the virus.
Mr Paisley said: “The announcement by the Government to prohibit large gatherings really means that in the interests of public safety it is just not feasible for an event that attracts up to 100,000 visitors and spectators cannot proceed as planned.
“This is not the first time the event has faced such challenges. During the foot and mouth crisis the race was cancelled and during one year a bomb scare seriously disrupted racing.
“The organisers of the race always put NI first and have the interests of Northern Ireland at heart.
“I know this will be a difficult decision but I can only support the Coleraine and District club for showing leadership.
“This will be a blow to the local community. In fact the local economy stands to lose £12 million in turnover as a result and this will be impossible to replace.
“I’ve already asked the Government to provide rate and VAT relief as well as other measures to help the local economy.”
A spokesperson for the race organisers said on Tuesday: “Given the current concerns and restrictions around the Coronavirus public health crisis, the organisers of the 2020 fonaCAB and Nicholl Oils North West 200 will postpone the May 10-16 Race Week.
“Over the past two weeks we have been in constant contact with government and public health officials, representatives of Causeway Coast and Glens Council, and the sport’s governing body, the MCUI (UC).
“Today’s decision has been based upon the advice and guidance received. Our paramount desire is to act responsibly and do all we can to protect everyone from the threat posed by the virus.
“We enjoy the full support of loyal sponsors and stakeholders in making this decision but apologise for any inconvenience it has caused to them, our competitors, volunteers and race fans.”