Election candidate demands urgent action so Rás Tailteann survives

Posted on: May 13th, 2019
Rás Tailteann has always enjoyed a strong relationship with Donegal, where many battles have unfolded on the roads. And now a candidate in the local elections there wants Failte Ireland to step in and sponsor the race.

A candidate in the local elections has said allowing Rás Tailteann to slip off the sporting calendar was something the State could not stand over.

Cllr Seamus Rogers said for want of a relatively modest sum of money a part of the country’s sporting history and heritage was being lost.

He believed the race showcased the best of Ireland’s landscape and was an ideal vehicle to market the island’s natural beauty to the rest of the world.

“This race took place over seven decades, through good times and bad,” said the Donegal local election candidate.

“And it has passed through nearly every village and town on the island of Ireland,” he added of the race’s reach over its long history.

And while there were sporting considerations when considering future financial support, Cllr Rogers said it made business sense to back the race.

It had been held, he said, in May just before the tourism high season and brought with it a financial boost for those areas it went through.

“It is a tourist attraction as well as it could be traveling down the Wild Atlantic Way,” he said of the race’s ability to showcase an area Ireland was trying to market as an active holiday destination.

“It’s a joyous carnival of colour, courage and athleticism at the start of summer. It included among its winners a hermit from the side of a mountain in Kerry.

“And a milk man from Dundrum who won the Tour de France also won it,” Cllr Rogers said of Stephen Roche.

“For the lack of €350,000, an important part of our sporting and cultural heritage is gone. Something is wrong with this.”

And he believed Ireland’s tourism body was the obvious future supported of the eight-day race.

“I believe Fáilte Ireland should have stepped in there and said ‘we’ll sponsor you’ when the sponsorship first came to an end last year.

“Cycling has made a major comeback (in Ireland) and indeed in Donegal. Our riders always took part in the Rás and we had international cyclists as well.

“In a time when we are talking about health, and the threat of obesity, the Rás set a great example and it even set a great example to the youth.

“There are quite a number of cyclists on the road and (losing the Rás) is a retrograde step. It should be revived for next year.”

Rás Tailteann should be taking place next week but has been cancelled for the first time ever this year.

The race had been sponsored by FBD Insurance before An Post took over as backer. However, the national postal service’s backing ended with the 2017 event.

A number of secondary sponsors were put in place for last year’s edition, which was run mainly on cash reserves built up over the years.

However, that money was spent 12 months ago and without a new sponsor coming forward, this year’s race was cancelled, though it is hoped Rás Tailteann will return next year.