Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar and Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring have confirmed that Hugo MacNeill, ex-Ireland Rugby International, has agreed to chair the working group established in conjunction with their Northern colleagues Ministers Arlene Foster and Carál Ní Chuilín.
The appointment was announced following a meeting between Mr MacNeill and Northern Ireland’s Minister of Enterprise, Trade & Investment Arlene Foster and Minister of Culture, Arts & Leisure Carál Ní Chuilín.
Minister Varadkar said: “I’m delighted that Hugo MacNeill has agreed to chair the working group to examine the potential of a Rugby World Cup bid by Ireland. Hugo is an ideal appointment and will bring his knowledge of the rugby world, north-south relations, and his experience in business to bear on the work of the group. Hosting the Rugby World Cup is a very exciting prospect but there is a lot of work to do before we make a decision on whether to lodge our bid.”
Minister of State Ring said: “I really want to welcome Hugo on board and am chuffed that he accepted the appointment, given his rugby background and his proven ability in business. Sport can be a great unifier and as Chairman of the Irish Chapter of the Ireland Funds, he is also well known north and south. Attracting major international events is a key element of tourism strategy on both sides of the border and cooperation between north and south can only enhance such events.”
The Northern Irish Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said: “I welcome today’s announcement that Hugo MacNeill has agreed to chair the group being set up to establish how a bid for the Rugby World Cup in 2023 could be made. He brings with him a wealth of experience and understanding which will be invaluable to the working group as it considers how best to take proposals forward.
“Attracting major international events is a key element of Northern Ireland’s Programme for Government. Hosting large scale events provides us with a tremendous opportunity to grow tourism, boost visitor spend, and stimulate the continued growth of the Northern Ireland economy.”
Northern Ireland’s Sports Minister Carál Ni Chuilín said: “The island of Ireland has a lot to offer the global rugby family with many benefits for the north from the 2023 Rugby World Cup. The Executive is upgrading Ravenhill, Windsor Park and Casement Park, all ideal world class venues to host the Rugby World cup.
“I welcome the appointment of Hugo MacNeill as chair of the group exploring the options around a bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and to undertake the work required to get us into a position to make a successful bid.”
Hugo MacNeill played for Ireland for eight seasons between 1981 and 1988, was capped 37 times for Ireland, and scored ten tries. He also played in the first Rugby World Cup in 1987 and for the British and Irish Lions. He has since gone on to have a successful career in business. He is currently managing director of Goldman Sachs in Ireland as well as Chairman of the Irish Chapter of the Ireland Funds and Chairman of the British Irish Association.
The Rugby World Cup Working Group will comprise representatives from north and south from government departments, agencies and other key bodies. It will examine some key issues to assist the two Governments in their decision on whether to bid, set out a roadmap for a potential bid and will report back this summer.