Ireland is to bid to hold the opening stages of the Tour de France, Sports Minster Catherine Martin has revealed.
The tour last came here a generation ago – in 1998 – when it first ran into a major doping scandal.
The island of Ireland intends to pursue a joint North-South bid to host the opening stages of a future tour, Ms Martin and her Northern counterpart, Gordon Lyons, announced.
They have submitted an expression of interest to the formal bidding process to the tour organisers.
Northern Ireland hosted stages of the Giro d’Italia in 2014.
Both departments of sport will now collaborate on the development of a detailed bid to host the event, ideally in either 2026 or 2027.
The proposal to explore a cross-border bid for the tour’s Grand Départ follows a meeting between the ministers in Belfast last week.
Ms Martin said: “Hosting the world’s greatest cycle race would be an exciting opportunity for the island of Ireland.
“Our shared experience in hosting major sports events, our cooperative approach in marketing the entire island of Ireland as a tourism destination, and the wonderful scenery and céad míle fáilte that awaits visitors to Ireland could all combine to create an amazing all-island event.
“This collaborative process has my full support and I will engage with colleagues across Government on this in the coming weeks.”
Mr Lyons, Economy Minister in the shuttered Stormont Assembly, said: “I am confident that together we would be able to successfully host the Grand Depart.
“Major events such as this not only bring about huge economic benefits but give us a tremendous opportunity to showcase everything great about Northern Ireland.”