Northern Ireland news

Casement Park 'not being progressed' without ministers

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

THE Casement Park GAA stadium project is "not being progressed" without ministers – and needs its costings updated in a revised business case.

A total of £62.5 million of public money has been set aside for the west Belfast redevelopment project, which has faced numerous problems and delays.

But the Department for Communities (DfC) has confirmed it is still "awaiting new costs from a revised business case".

A sub-regional stadia programme for soccer worth £36.2 million has also stalled due to the absence of Stormont power-sharing.

The issues were confirmed in a letter from the Department for Communities (DfC) to SDLP assembly member Justin McNulty.

Leo O'Reilly, DfC permanent secretary, listed the two sports plans as "key projects and programmes in this department that are not being progressed in the absence of ministers".

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"I would assure you the department is also continuing to deliver on a wide range of projects and programmes that were approved before March 2017 or where previous ministers had set a clear policy direction for spending priorities," he added.

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

The DUP and Sinn Féin insist they want to restore devolution, but disagree over issues including same-sex marriage and an Irish language act.

There have been questions over what decisions can be made in the executive's absence following a major court ruling in May, when a judge said civil servants did not have the legal power to approve an incinerator planning application without ministers.

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

Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley some weeks ago said she plans to bring forward legislation to allow civil servants to make decisions in the absence of an executive, although it is unclear how far this will extend.

Casement Park was originally to cost £77 million overall, but Stormont officials say the GAA has told them the stadium plans cannot proceed without more public funding.

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

Mr McNulty, an MLA for Newry and Armagh, called for civil servants to be "given the power to push ahead with these projects".

"It is unacceptable that the ongoing political stalemate is continuing to have a serious impact on these projects and our sports," he said.

"Those in sport, both in the administration and indeed the volunteers in Gaelic games across Ulster are getting agitated and frustrated by the lack of progress on Casement. The feeling is the same in the soccer community.

"The lack of an executive at Stormont is hitting every part of this community and there seems little chance of progress in the near future.

"As there is little sign of an end to the impasse between the two big parties, then the civil service must be given the power to push ahead with these projects."

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