Northern Ireland

Estimates of more than £200m to rebuild Casement thrown around, but construction inflation figures suggest project could cost closer to £150m

Opponents of the project giving unsubstantiated estimates in absence of any from government or GAA

Artists' impression of the new Casement Park stadium in west Belfast
Artists' impression of the new Casement Park stadium in west Belfast

TUV MLA Jim Allister is hugely interested in the redevelopment of Casement Park, tabling no fewer than five of 13 total questions on the subject since the return of the executive and assembly.

The DUP’s Michelle McIlveen had a further two questions while outside the confines of Stormont and there appears to be an effort to throw an estimated cost of more than £200 million into the mix.

DUP MP Jim Shannon mentioned the figure of £220m during a Westminster NI Affairs Committee meeting attended by the Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris on Tuesday.

The BBC, on several occasions in recent days, has repeated the claim it could cost more than £200m. On Tuesday BBC Evening Extra said it could not put a figure on the cost despite trying to get an exact figure.

TUV leader Jim Allister claims he has been excluded from membership of Stormont’s Windsor Framework Democratic Scrutiny Committee
TUV leader Jim Allister has a deep interest in the development of Casement Park (Liam McBurney/PA)

It is unclear where the cost estimates are coming from but it is clear that some who are opposed to the rebuilding of a home for Ulster GAA and venue for the 2028 Euros are coming up with estimates in the absence of any from the Department for the Communities (DfC) or Ulster GAA.

It is around 10 years now since concrete plans for the revamped Casement were first unveiled. At the time, the estimated cost to build the 34,500 seater stadium was placed at just over £77m, with Stormont committing £62.5m and the GAA pledging £15m.

By 2019, while legal challenges to the project were still weaving their way through the courts, the GAA estimated the cost had increased to £110m.

In 2021, then First Minister Paul Givan said the cost “may well be” in the £140m or £150m price range. This, he said, was based on 25% inflation for capital projects.

Construction inflation soared in recent years following supply chain snarl ups during the pandemic and in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It hit a peak of 11% in the north in 2022 and remains very high.

But in the years before these dramatic global events construction inflation was around 2-3%. Based on the 2019 GAA announced estimate, there is every possibility an estimated cost of around £150m will be announced, far below the more than £200m figure being claimed, mostly by opponents of the project.

With the Dublin government pledging £42m and £77m already ringfenced, the challenge will be finding the shortfall among all the partners to enable construction to begin and work completed by mid-2027, in time for the Euros.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has told the NIAC that revenue-raising was always part of a financial deal for a returning Stormont executive
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris becoming a little unclear on Casement (Aaron Chown/PA)

In May, 2023, Mr Heaton-Harris, ahead of Britain and the Ireland winning the Euros bid, said of he Casement project: “I don’t actually know how much the whole thing is going to cost. We’ve seen different estimates. But let’s win the bid first.”

He added: “I’m quite sure the UK government wants to help but we will work with all partners to deliver the Casement Park stadium.”

At the NI Affairs Committee meeting on Tuesday, Mr Heaton-Harris said that “if something becomes too expensive then things have to change”.

When Mr Shannon claimed £220m was the latest projected cost, the Secretary of State added that “there there will be a point where executive ministers who want to do an amazing job in delivering this for NI will have thought... you can do a lot more good with this money”.

Asked to clarify, the NIO said: “We have no further comment.”