I propose to take Questions Nos. 259 and 277 together.
The hosting of major sports events can deliver additional international visits and helps to put Ireland onto travel itineraries as a holiday destination. I am supportive of the ongoing efforts of the Tourism Agencies and the National Governing Bodies of Sport to attract international events, subject, of course, to an assessment of the costs/benefits involved in any State financial support.
In relation to the Rugby World Cup, last November the Government considered a Memorandum on the discussions and analysis to date on a potential bid to host the Cup in 2023. While the Memorandum identified a number of challenges, the great potential of the event is also clear and I believe that hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2023 would be a great opportunity for Northern Ireland and Ireland. The Government expressed strong support for the proposal and for the conduct of further work to get to the stage of making a formal decision to bid.
Minister Ring and I have since agreed with our Northern Ireland ministerial colleagues to establish a working group to examine some key issues, including the potential economic return from hosting the tournament through inbound tourism, and to report back to us in the Summer. The working group, chaired by Hugo MacNeill, has held two meetings to date with the next meeting scheduled to take place on 11 April. I look forward to receiving their report.
In relation to proposed venues, this will only be decided as part of the formulation of a formal bid to host the Cup and in response to the stadia requirements contained in the Invitation to Tender for the 2023 Rugby World Cup which has yet to be issued by the International Rugby Board (IRB).