Ex-camogie chair sets up residents' group supporting Casement plans


NEW residents' group supporting plans to redevelop Casement Park has been set up by a recent chairwoman of Ulster Camogie. Bridghídín Heenan has launched the Andersonstown Regeneration Committee (ARC) as the GAA prepares to bring forward fresh plans for the site in west Belfast.

Planning permission for a new 38,000-seat stadium was blocked last year in a successful legal challenge led by another residents' group.

A High Court judge ruled that the impact of bigger crowds was not properly examined in the £77 million plans.

Sinn Féin culture minister Carál Ní Chuilín and the Stormont Executive have vowed to continue supporting the redevelopment of Casement.

Ms Heenan was chair of Ulster Camogie last year and is still involved in the organisation, but insisted ARC is "totally separate" from the GAA. "I'm a gael and like a lot of people I would like to see Casement there but I am not compromised," she said. "We wanted a positive group of people together that has a positive outlook. We want to make sure investment comes in and meets the community's needs. We want Casement to happen."

Among those

also involved in ARC is prominent republican Séanna Walsh, right, the man who in 2005 read the IRA statement announcing the end of its armed campaign.

Ms Heenan said although she has "personal friends" in Sinn Féin she is not involved in any political party.

The 51-year-old, who has lived all her life beside Casement, said the new residents' group had not been "orchestrated" by anyone.

Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents' Association (Mora) strongly opposed the previous plans put forward by the GAA and were the driving force behind the successful legal action.

The case, which involved 13 days of legal submissions in October, was one of the longest judicial review applications to come before the north's courts in recent years.

Residents said they were not opposed to a new stadium but claimed a 38,000 capacity is too large and the proposed ground would dwarf surrounding homes, block out light and compound traffic congestion. Ms Heenan said she supported the original plans and disagreed with concerns raised such as parking problems. "Casement has always been there and it has been an integral part of west Belfast," she said. "In the group we want to show there is positivity for the redevelopment of Casement Park. I just see it as a massive positive for the whole community. "It is incumbent on us that we can get the best facilities for Casement to hand onto the next generation. We have an opportunity to have a state-of-the-art stadium there."

Ms Heenan said around 30 people have so far shown an interest in being involved in the new group.

A meeting was held at Andersonstown Social Club on Thursday to set up a committee, but the members and their positions have not been finalised. Ms Heenan, who is expected to chair the group, said Casement would be the first in a range of development projects in west Belfast they hoped to discuss.

* PLANS: An artist's impression of the Casement Park development