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Leading GAA official rejects Casement Park claim

GAA official Ryan Feeney. Picture by Cliff Donaldson

A leading GAA official has refuted allegations that he claimed he could get police to drop concerns about the Casement stadium project.

Safety expert Paul Scott yesterday made new claims about the controversial redevelopment and alleged that Ryan Feeney told him he could persuade senior police officers to change their views about the plans.

The Ulster Council's head of community and public affairs, who is also an independent Policing Board member, last night strongly denied the claim and said he was taking legal advice.

Mr Scott made the allegation at a meeting of the Culture, Arts and Leisure (Cal) committee yesterday.

The Sport Northern Ireland employee was asked by the DUP's William Humphrey about the safety technical group's report on Casement Park.

The report raised concerns about emergency exits at the planned 38,000-capacity stadium.

Assembly members were told the plans did not meet health and safety requirements to evacuate the Andersonstown Road stadium within eight minutes.

Mr Scott said: "We were advised that the design team, the GAA, DCAL (Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure) had access to high-ranking police officers and that they would be able to get the police report changed."

Mr Humphrey then asked who had advised him.

"Ryan Feeney advised us and also (DCAL official) Carl Southern," Mr Scott said.

"It was saying: 'Well, look, if we get the police to change their views, then the other emergency services will follow suit. You guys are going to be left on your own and you will look very foolish.'"

PSNI Chief Inspector Anthony McNally refuted the claim.

"I was involved in conversations from last summer through to now with the GAA where they did come in to speak to senior police in relation to Casement, and I can certainly say there was never, through any of those conversations, any effort to put pressure on the police to change the report," he said.

Mr Feeney also strongly denied Mr Scott's claim in a statement released last night.

"I emphatically deny the allegations by Paul Scott which were made under privilege at the Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee," he said.

"Paul Scott and I never had a conversation, at any stage, on the PSNI's role or involvement in the Casement Park project.

"The allegations were also immediately refuted by the PSNI and and again rejected later in the CAL committee evidence session. I do not understand why this statement has been made, it is totally false. I am currently taking legal advice on this matter."

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