Northern Ireland news

Sinn Fein ministers give 'firm commitment' that executive will deliver on Casement Park

Finance minister Conor Murphy and then communities minister Deirdre Hargey with the Casement Park project's Tom Daly at the west Belfast sports ground earlier this year
Brendan Hughes

SINN Féin ministers have given a "firm commitment" that the executive will deliver on the Casement Park project, the party's West Belfast MP has said.

Paul Maskey was speaking yesterday after he and party colleagues, including ministers Michelle O'Neill, Conor Murphy and Declan Kearney, held a meeting with Ulster GAA.

It has been more than a decade since the west Belfast stadium redevelopment was announced, but the troubled project has faced numerous setbacks.

A revised planning application is still being assessed by planning officials in Stormont's infrastructure department.

The original budget was around £77m, with Stormont pledging around £62m and the GAA providing £15m.

Its projected cost has since risen to £110m, but no agreement has been made on the share each will pay to plug the shortfall.

Mr Maskey said they took the opportunity yesterday to "reemphasise our party's continued support for the Casement Park redevelopment".

"And I am delighted that Michelle O'Neill, Conor Murphy and Declan Kearney gave a firm commitment that the executive will deliver on this vital project."

He said a regenerated Casement Park would bring "enormous social and economic benefits".

The infrastructure department has previously said it hoped officials would be in a position to make a recommendation to the minister Nichola Mallon for her consideration "in the summer".

On Monday, the SDLP MLA told the assembly: "I have previously stressed the need for progression of this long-awaited application and my officials continue to work at pace so it can be brought forward for a decision.

"Officials have substantively completed their assessment of the application and are presently considering a recently submitted objection to the application.

"It is important that due process is followed if a sound decision is to be made and it is hoped that a recommendation on this significant application can be brought forward shortly."

The minister said a clarification of the law through the recent Executive Committee (Functions) Act enabled her to make planning decisions without executive colleagues.

"As such, and I see the taking of planning decisions as an important component in assisting our recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, I intend to begin making decisions shortly on a number of planning applications, which officials have been working on to bring to a decision point," she added.

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