Conall McDevitt has been given leave to make a statement on Martyn Irvine becoming a world champion track cyclist that fulfils the criteria set out in Standing Order 24. If other Members wish to be called, they should continually rise in their place. All Members called will have up to three minutes to speak on the subject.
Those who believe that success in track cycling is just a matter of throwing money at a rider and some fancy aerodynamic kit should look no further than Newtownards rider Martyn Irvine's gold and silver medals at last week's world championship cycling event in Minsk. Steven Beacom captured it brilliantly in the 'Belfast Telegraph' when he wrote:
"Not bad for a bloke who told me ... last year that he was a couch potato when he was a kid and did all he could to get out of PE at Movilla High School in Newtownards. Martyn didn't take up cycling until he was 18 ... Winning a silver in the Individual Pursuit event at the World Track Championships in Minsk ... was a magnificent effort. We'd have settled for that ... Joyously though there was more to come. Much more. Less than an hour after taking silver, Martyn followed it up by claiming gold in the Scratch race. Remarkable. Put this down as one of the finest sporting feats ever accomplished by an Ulsterman. And it was the staggering way he did it that made his victory even more heroic. Despite being almost out on his feet after his earlier exertions, with 10 out of the 60 laps to go in the Scratch event, he broke from the bunch and basically just went for it sprinting away with every last drop of energy he had. No guts, no glory ... Martyn Irvine – Champion of the world!"
Those are Mr Beacom's words, not mine. It was an extraordinary achievement: the equivalent in athletics would be a medal in the 400 metres at the Olympic Games followed an hour later by gold in the 3,000 metres. He has done it all on a shoestring. It is what they call paniagua in cycling — bread and water. It means two things: you ride clean, but you ride with very little resource. The budget for track cycling in Ireland is well under €100,000, which is just under £90,000. Compare that with the £8 million a year available to the GB team in this Olympic cycle. It goes mainly to fund Martyn and Caroline Ryan, who won bronze last year in a points race, and they spend much of their time training in Majorca, pooling their track time so that they get the necessary hours in. I want us to do more than just honour him today. I want us to invest in him and to make him as proud of us as we are, undoubtedly, proud of him.
I thank the Member for tabling this Matter of the Day regarding a Newtownards man and, indeed, one of my constituents, Martyn Irvine. Over the past few years, the interest in competitive cycling has increased massively, thanks in no small part to some now almost iconic British cyclists, such as Sir Chris Hoy, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton and our own Wendy Houvenaghel, who tasted world championship success in the team pursuit in the 2008, 2009 and 2011 track world championships. It is fantastic that another local emulated that success by winning gold in the scratch discipline at last week's world championships in Minsk. Amazingly, as Mr McDevitt said, he won his gold medal in a 15 km race only an hour after winning in a 4 km race in the individual pursuit. This achievement is made all the more remarkable, considering the meagre resources that are available to him. Even Martyn himself commented:
"You couldn't live on what I'm living on".
All of Newtownards, Strangford and, indeed, Northern Ireland should be extremely proud of what Martyn has done through his hard work, his discipline and his endeavour.
Coincidentally, Martyn's success came on the day that it was announced that the Giro d'Italia is coming to Northern Ireland in May 2014, thanks to the work of the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and the Tourist Board in securing this. It is an event that draws a television audience of 800 million and is broadcast live to 165 countries. I hope that what the likes of Wendy Houvenaghel and Martyn Irvine have achieved can inspire a generation and that, with major events such as the Giro d'Italia being held here, Northern Ireland can be more than just the capital of golf. In conclusion, I wish Martyn well in his future races and, in particular, when he represents Northern Ireland in next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Déanaim comhghairdeas fosta le Martyn ar an ócáid stairiúil seo. I congratulate Martyn Irvine on the occasion of winning silver and, indeed, the world championship for Ireland.
As other Members have said, it was a very historic day in Minsk for Irish cycling, and this comes on the back of a remarkable number of months for Martyn, including, of course, his participation in the 2012 Olympics and his success in the Track World Cup in November and now this spectacular double win. It is a fairy-tale story of a boy who went from being a mechanic to a cyclist and has now become a world champion. We give our heartiest congratulations to Martyn. I also take this opportunity to pass our congratulations to Kelly Gallagher for winning the bronze medal in the women's downhill and silver in the Super-G. They have both done us proud, as, indeed, has the Ireland women's rugby team in winning the Triple Crown. At this moment in time, the less said about the men's team the better. I cannot let it go without congratulating Derry on a great start to the National Hurling League at Celtic Park yesterday.
The whole of Newtownards will come together to celebrate that achievement, as will the whole of Strangford, remembering that this is not exceptional for the area. Sycerika McMahon recently won silver at the Euro swimming championships.
I congratulate Martyn Irvine. There will be pride at Movilla High School, his old school, in Newtownards, in Strangford and across Northern Ireland and pride across the whole of Ireland because he won wearing an Irish vest. I look forward to seeing Martyn in Northern Ireland colours next year at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
It gives me great pleasure to join my colleagues in congratulating Martyn Irvine from Newtownards om his fantastic achievement. He won the gold and silver medals at the world cycling championship last week. We are absolutely thrilled and delighted. I had the pleasure a couple of years ago, as chairman of Ards Borough Council sports development committee, of awarding Martyn the title of "Sportsperson of the Year". At that time, we in the committee obviously saw the talents that Martyn had and his determination and potential, and his performance last week proved us right in our confidence in that talent and ability.
Martyn certainly proved his excellence on the world stage last week. He brought great credit not only to himself but to his family, his home town of Newtownards, Northern Ireland and, indeed, the whole island. We wholeheartedly congratulate Martyn on his wonderful achievement and performance, and we wish him well for the future.
While I am on my feet, I also congratulate the Irish ladies' rugby team on bringing the Triple Crown home to Ireland. We are a nation of sportspeople, and we can bring the gold home to Ireland and Northern Ireland.
My Strangford constituency, which has an exceedingly fine reputation for sports activities, including cycling, greeted the success of Newtownards man Martyn Irvine with a wide-ranging rendition of plaudits, which has been added to here. My own would be "Fantastically brilliant", "World champion indeed" and "Well done, Martyn".