Northern Ireland news

Analysis: £110m Casement Park puts more pressure on GAA

Plans for the redevelopment of Casement Park in west Belfast
Brendan Hughes

FOR years it has been clear the Casement Park project would be significantly over budget, but confirmation of the spiralling cost is still difficult for Ulster GAA to face.

The £110 million figure was lodged in the middle of a press release issued late on a Friday afternoon. Any PR guru will tell you this is the optimum time to bury bad news.

It also pre-empted Irish News plans to publish the figure next week as part of a special feature marking 10 years since the troubled west Belfast stadium project was announced.

Stormont officials had confirmed the new estimate in an interview with this newspaper on Monday, and had notified Ulster GAA of this disclosure.

An interview with Ulster GAA secretary Brian McAvoy was requested more than a fortnight ago, but he was only made available yesterday.

Ulster GAA says it remains committed to redeveloping Casement, but the cost compounds fears over the project's future.

A new business case has been submitted, but the Stormont executive's collapse in 2017 means there are no ministers to agree to additional funding.

It also remains unclear whether civil servants will grant planning permission without ministerial approval. If they do, it could face another legal challenge.

The cost comes at a time of other financial pressures for the GAA. The €95.8m estimated redevelopment cost of Páirc Uí Chaoimh stadium in Cork is close to €10m more than what was projected.

Ulster GAA is also facing a drop in championship match attendances. Turnouts have fallen from more than 17,500 on average in 2015 to just over 12,300 last year.

When Ulster GAA announced its stadium plan in 2009, it suggested construction would begin "within the next year". Yesterday it was making no predictions.

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