'Time to get Casement done' says former Armagh All-Ireland winner Justin McNulty
THE planning application for Casement Park has now been gathering dust for 1002 days and exasperated former Armagh All-Ireland winner Justin McNulty has called on permanent Northern Ireland secretary Katrina Godfrey to give the go-ahead for work to begin on the proposed new home of Ulster GAA.
Throughout the summer ‘Build Casement’ campaigners were visible at Ulster Championship matches gathering support for the stalled project and there were optimistic reports of ‘a positive announcement before Christmas’. But with the festive season almost here, Casement Park appears no closer and McNulty says Ulster Gaels have finally had enough.
“Every Gael across the nine counties of Ulster is very frustrated at the lack of progress on the Casement Park Planning Application and we all just want to see the project commence on site as soon as possible,” said McNulty, who lined out at the famous west Belfast venue several times including the summer of 2003 when reigning All-Ireland champions Armagh took on Antrim in the Qualifiers.
Joe Kernan’s Orchardmen were expected to win that game comfortably but they were pushed all the way and relieved to clinch a three-point win (0-15 to 0-12) against a battling Saffron line-up and went on to reach the All-Ireland final.
“We have all been looking on with envy at the shining new stadia at Ravenhill and Windsor Park, and cannot understand the delay in getting the Casement Park project moving,” added McNulty.
This year’s Antrim football final between Lamh Dhearg and Cargin would have graced a much bigger venue. Without one the game was played at Corrigan Park – a good club ground but without seating or cover for fans and lacking floodlights. A fit-for-purpose county ground is urgently required and McNulty predicts that Casement Park will be a “sporting Mecca” for Ulster Gaels in the future.
“The GAA is by far the largest sporting organisation in this province and on this island,” said the Mullaghbawn native.
“I want to commend the Ulster Council of the GAA and its volunteers across this region for their patience and persistence.
“They are determined to see a state of the art and fit for purpose facility delivered for our games in Ulster. There should be no further delay in dealing with this planning application.
“All the information has been submitted, it has been scrutinised to the highest standards and the Permanent Secretary has the power to determine this application. Let’s get on with it and get the stadium built that can become a sporting mecca for generations of Ulster Gaels.”
Despite almost three years’ of delay, Casement Park Project Board chairman Tom Daly remains optimistic that work could commence on a 34,5000-capacity stadium next year.
“Subject to planning approval and securing the additional investment required to deliver the project we remain hopeful that work could commence in 2020 at Casement Park,” he said.
“Everyone at Ulster GAA is resolutely committed to the delivery of this project and to ensuring you, our members, benefit from the investment in major stadium infrastructure with a modern fit for purpose provincial stadium and a new home for Antrim Gaelic Games.”