Northern Ireland

Senior Tory: British government needs to ‘step up to plate’ on Casement funding

Casement Park GAA stadium in Belfast
Casement Park GAA stadium in west Belfast. (Niall Carson/PA)

A senior Conservative MP has said the British government has a responsibility to “step up to the plate” on funding for Casement Park.

Sir Robert Buckland, a former Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, who was also previously Welsh secretary, said London should ensure the west Belfast GAA stadium is constructed in time for the Euro 2028 soccer tournament and “for future use”.

Sir Robert Buckland
Sir Robert Buckland. PICTURE: PA (Kirsty O'Connor/PA)

The South Swindon MP was speaking on BBC’s The View programme about the planned stadium, which is one of two Irish venues set to host games during the UK and Ireland’s joint hosting of the European Championship in four years time.

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

“It’s really important for all the communities in Northern Ireland to be part of what is a competition that brings together both Great Britain and Ireland,” he said.

Work has begun on clearing Casement Park ahead of construction work beginning on the proposed 34,000-seater stadium, which some estimates have put the cost of as high as over £300m.

Contractors with excavators have begun clearing the concrete terraces at the ground in Belfast
Contractors with excavators have begun clearing the concrete terraces at Casement Park. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY (Liam McBurney/PA)

The GAA has said it will put £15m towards the project, and the Irish government almost £43m under its Shared Island funding. The British government has said it will pay towards the construction, but has yet to commit to a figure.

Asked about London’s contribution, Mr Buckland said: “We have a responsibility to make sure that the project is efficient and run properly and that I think is a job for elected politicians order to scrutinise and make sure the project is indeed value for money.

“It wouldn’t be right for the government to commit itself to some sort of black hole in terms of funding but ultimately I think the UK government does have a responsibility step up to the plate to help us make sure that we can deliver that facility not just for the tournament but for future use.”

Meanwhile Stormont First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said she is “determined” to see Casement Park built in time for the Euros.

Speaking during her visit to Washington DC ahead of St Patrick’s Day, she said: “Obviously, Casement is something that I want to see delivered, I think it’s so so important that we get that project, the stadia built particularly given its role within the wider Euro bid.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us and sport should be something that unites us all in our society, and it’s about building first class facilities for across all sporting codes, so I am determined to see Casement built.”