Northern Ireland

It’s all about procurement now for Casement - and Heron may be back

The derelict Casement Park GAA stadium in Belfast. Picture by Niall Carson/PA
The derelict Casement Park GAA stadium in Belfast. Picture by Niall Carson/PA It's now over to the procurement authorities to appoint contractors to revive the derelict Casement Park stadium

The Irish Government’s commitment to allocate €50 million (about £43m) to the construction of the 34,500-capacity Casement Park stadium has at least set a metaphorical ball rolling that should eventually get a proper ball kicking (and punching).

Now the focus will turn to the Department for Communities (DfC) and Central Procurement Directorate to expedite a process to get contractors appointed and boots on the ground in what is becoming an increasingly tight deadline.

And it has also emerged that Co Derry construction firm Heron Brothers, previously linked to the Casement project, is also keen to return as potential contractors or as joint-venture partners.

A definitive list of contractors for the long-delayed redevelopment has yet to be drawn up.

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

An entirely new procurement regime for the UK following its departure from the EU passed into law just four months ago in October, when the Procurement Act 2023 was granted its royal assent.

For now, it’s unclear if the Casement project will proceed via existing procurement frameworks for major construction projects with pre-qualified contractors, given that a definitive list of contractors has not yet been established.

But what appears certain is that the authorities will use some sort of framework which will allow them to move relatively quickly without the need to start a contractor search from scratch.

There is some suggestion they may consider taking guidance from the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), the biggest public procurement organisation in the UK, which plays an important role in helping the public sector save money - and whose database features a number of Northern Ireland contractors.

Meanwhile Heron Brothers - whose latest set of accounts show that it doubled profits last year to £11m after sales rose by a third to more than £114m - may also be back in the mix.

Heron Brothers and English construction firm Buckingham Group were originally appointed back into 2013 to redevelop Casement, but last August Buckingham gave notice of its intention to appoint administrators and pulled out of the process.

Last year the GAA revealed it was left with no choice but to end the Casement procurement process, entirely due to technicalities in the Public Contract Regulations.

The sports body said through due diligence that Heron could still deliver the project, but the procurement advice from DfC at that time was that they couldn’t continue with the current process and would have to start a new exercise.

The Draperstown firm confirmed it is now awaiting details of the next procurement stage to see if it still presents an opportunity to be involved in the landmark project.