Northern Ireland

Unionist threatened after expressing support for Casement Park revamp says `I can’t let it stop me’

Ulster Unionist councillor vows not to be silenced following abuse

UUP's Linzi McLaren
UUP's Linzi McLaren

An Ulster Unionist councillor who was threatened following her public support for the revamp of Casement Park has said she cannot let the abuse deter her.

Ards and North Down Councillor Linzi McLaren said she was a target because she was a woman and a moderate unionist, which had upset certain people.

The former PSNI officer also received an abusive letter after arguing the GAA deserved a stadium.

She said while she had seen “obscene abuse” directed towards her male counterparts, she believes that when the abuse is towards women its “very personal”.

“When women receive abuse it crosses a line - what they look like, what they’re wearing, what life choices they’ve made,” she said.

A delegation from the organisers of the Euro 2028 football tournament on site this afternoon for an early inspection of the venue.
The venue in west Belfast is earmarked to host games at the tournament in four years.
But the stadium has yet to be redeveloped.
The deadline to complete the construction is mid-2027.
At this stage, there is not sufficient funding to pay for the redevelopment, which could cost more than £200m.
A delegation from the organisers of the Euro 2028 football tournament on site at Casement Park on Wednesday.

The UUP councillor told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster she will remain a public representative despite threats following her public support for the redevelopment of the west Belfast venue.

She posted on X that governments invested money in stadiums because “the injection of cash into the economy is huge”.

The GAA deserved a stadium and any debate around cash for Casement should be “objective” and “free from whatever mistrust people feel toward the GAA as an organisation”, the councillor added.

She said that the latest threat “unnerved” her, adding that “you just start to get worn down by it”. “It won’t stop me from being a politician. I can’t let it stop me”.

“I believe the right politicians with the right moral courage can make a difference in Northern Ireland and they can’t be threatened for trying to fulfil that role.”

Ms McLaren, who said she had a strong relationship with her local GAA club in Holywood, Co Down, began receiving abuse early in her political career. She almost believed “that it’s part and parcel of the role”.

However, she added: “I think that’s a dangerous precedent to set - to accept that someone in a public role should be normalising abuse and threats - because it isn’t acceptable.

“If there’s abuse and threats every time a politician decides to speak up on an issue, less and less people are going to decide to throw their hat in the ring and stand for election, especially women, which I find incredibly sad.”