Football

Casement Park funding shortfall now ‘a political issue’ says Stormont official

New GAA President Jarlath Burns clear Association cannot increase £15m committment

Artists impression of the redeveloped Casement Park
Artists impression of the redeveloped Casement Park

The senior official at Stormont in charge of delivering the Casement Park project has indicated that the ball is in the court of the UK government over the funding shortfall required to complete the project.

Colum Boyle, the permanent secretary at the Department for Communities (DfC), acknowledged that the funding shortfall for the build remained the key issue and said that it was something that has now had moved into the “political sphere”.

The GAA has been under pressure to increase its original £15 million commitment, given the initial project cost has soared in the last decade.

However, newly elected GAA president Jarlath Burns this week voiced his opposition to increasing the association’s contribution.

It is believed that the GAA has received assurances from Northern Ireland Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris that money will be found to make up the funding gap.

Mr Boyle, giving evidence to his Assembly oversight committee: “From our point of view, we know we’re looking at something which is construction inflation. We knew that’s the scenario.”

Jarlath Burns began his three-year term as GAA president at Saturday's annual Congress in Newry. Picture by Sportsfile
GAA Congress Jarlath Burns began his three-year term as GAA president at Saturday's annual Congress in Newry. Picture by Sportsfile (SPORTSFILE)

“We know that the configuration of the stadium has changed from what it was originally meant to be, we know that Uefa have particular requirements as well, which has increased the cost to some extent, as well.

“So there are a number of players involved in the British government in terms of this.

“We’re very, very close to them. I think the conversations are happening. I think there’s a level of sensitivity about that.

“But I think they’re now going to a political sphere, as distinct from what’s been happening over the last number of months – us as officials were heavily involved in that, (but) I think it’s going to ratchet up I think in terms of being more of a political issue in terms of how the money gets resolved.”

During his appearance before the committee, Mr Boyle also said a programme to redevelop regional stadia in Northern Ireland was progressing at pace.

He said the subregional stadia redevelopment plan was a key priority for Communities Minister Gordon Lyons and he had instructed officials to intensify efforts to get work commenced.

Mr Boyle said an initial funding package of around £35 million pledged more than a decade ago “isn’t going to cut it” in terms of completing all the work.

The senior Stormont official in charge of delivering the Casement Park redevelopment has insisted the project is in “good shape” and has expressed optimism the stadium will host games at Euro 2028.