Northern Ireland

First Minister Michelle O’Neill urged to ‘live up to her word’ on pledge to get Casement Park built

The Sinn Féin deputy leader said the redevelopment of Antrim GAA’s headquarters would happen ‘on my watch’

Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill, speaks during the pro-unity event
First Minister Michelle O’Neill at the Ireland's Future event at Belfast's SSE Arena. PICTURE: BRIAN LAWLESS/PA (Brian Lawless/PA)

First Minister Michelle O’Neill has been urged to “live up to her word” by making urgent representations to the British government over funding for Casement Park.

The Sinn Féin deputy leader told Saturday’s Ireland’s Future event in Belfast: “In case there is any doubt out there, Casement Park will be built on my watch”.

Ms O’Neill said her preference was that the stadium would be ready in time for Euro 2028 but that the long-delayed redevelopment of Antrim GAA’s headquarters would happen while she is in office.

Casement Park in Belfast , Ulster GAA ha announced that it will commence necessary maintenance and pre-enabling works ahead of the Development works for the new Casement park.
The redevelopment of Casement Park has been bedevilled by problems for more than a decade. PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN

Her comments came just days after GAA president Jarlath Burns said he was “very pessimistic” about the prospects of a 30,000-capacity, all-seater stadium being redeveloped in time for the quadrennial soccer tournament.

In the absence of Belfast playing host to Euro 2028, a more modest stadium is expected to be built. The project has been bedevilled by delays and setbacks since the GAA first announced plans for a 40,000-capacity stadium 15 years ago.

Stormont Opposition leader Matthew O’Toole said it was unclear how much pressure the executive had put on the British government to get make the project a reality.

He urged the first minister and her colleagues “to live up to her word and make urgent representations to the British government around funding”.

The SDLP MLA said time is running out to “bring one of the biggest tournaments in the world to our doorstep”.

“It’s easy to talk about delivery and get cheers from a crowd but the fact is the whole executive, including the first minister, have been found wanting on progressing Casement Park – to the point where we now face the very real possibility of missing out on Euro 2028,” Mr O’Toole said.

“The entire executive has failed to treat this project with the importance it deserves.”