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No 'Plan B' on Casement Park plans says GAA

Plans for the development of the Casement Park GAA ground in west Belfast
Brendan Hughes

THE GAA has ruled out calls for a 'Plan B' on the stalled Casement Park redevelopment project.

It also urged that the west Belfast stadium "is not allowed to suffer further delay" amid uncertainty over the lack of government at Stormont.

The GAA "remains entirely focused" on completing the project – and "there is not and cannot be a 'Plan B' in the context of a major provincial stadium at Casement Park".

It comes after Antrim GAA's chairman said the sports ground may need to be redeveloped "into a county ground, as opposed to a provincial stadium" if a construction date is not set by early next year.

Colin Donnelly last week told The Irish News that if a planning decision is not made by early 2019, Antrim clubs should be consulted on lobbying the GAA for the "Plan B" of a smaller county ground.

Casement has been closed since 2013 amid efforts to redevelop it into a regional stadium, but the plans have faced numerous setbacks.

Revised plans for a 34,000-capacity ground were submitted to Stormont officials in February last year and are under consideration.

Ulster GAA wants Casement to be capable of hosting provincial finals as well as events such as pop concerts.

But a major court ruling cast further doubt on the project in May when a judge said civil servants did not have the legal power to approve a planning application without executive ministers.

Stormont officials have since said they will not make any further decisions on major planning applications in the absence of ministers.

Northern Ireland has not had a power-sharing government since the executive fell apart last year.

In an open letter yesterday to Ulster clubs, the GAA said it is "unclear what will happen" when planners conclude their assessment.

"While we are frustrated with the delays we have faced to date, we remain entirely focused on bringing the project to a successful conclusion," the GAA said in the open letter, which was signed by Tom Daly on behalf of the Casement Park project board.

"In our ongoing dialogue with other project developers, civic leaders and elected representatives we ask simply for one thing. In the context of the future governance and decision-making arrangements that may be negotiated politically, that Casement Park is not allowed to suffer further delay and that our members throughout Ulster and further afield should not be disadvantaged by the ongoing absence of a modern fit for purpose home for the GAA in the city of Belfast."

It added: "We also wish to make clear from a strategic GAA perspective that there is not and cannot be a 'Plan B' in the context of a major provincial stadium at Casement Park."

The GAA expects Stormont officials to be "in a position to conclude its assessment on the application over the next couple of months and move to prepare a recommendation report".

The association said it will provide an update "prior to the end of 2018".

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