Northern Ireland news

Casement Park 'Plan B' welcomed

Plans for the redevelopment of Casement Park, and inset, how The Irish News reported on calls for a rethink
Brendan Hughes

A WEST Belfast residents' group has welcomed the head of Antrim GAA's call for a "Plan B" on Casement Park.

Colin Donnelly told The Irish News 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.

The Antrim GAA chairman said 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 Park 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.

Contractors at the Casement Park site in Andersonstown, west Belfast last year. Picture by Mal McCann

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.

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

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

It has not commented on Mr Donnelly's remarks.

Colin Donnelly, Antrim GAA chairman

The Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association (Mora) – which mounted a successful legal challenge against previous plans for a 38,000-capacity stadium – remains opposed to the revised plans, saying they are "not a significant reduction" in capacity.

Mora's Tony Dignan said they welcomed "openness to new thinking around the redevelopment" and encouraged further discussions on "fleshing out a 'Plan B'".

"We want to see a suitably sized redevelopment and for sporting purposes only. It should be a safe stadium, with a manageable capacity and no need for an additional exit at Owenvarragh Gardens," he said.

Mr Dignan added: "In short, it really is time now for a serious re-think on the way forward for Casement Park."

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