Northern Ireland news

GAA must cough up more cash for Casement says Communities Minister

An artist's impression of the new Casement Park stadium.
Ryan McAleer

THE GAA must increase its contribution to redevelop Casement Park, Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has said.

The project was originally developed with a £77 million budget, with the GAA contributing £15m.

But the projected cost has risen to £110m.

Earlier this month, Ms Ní Chuilín said the extra £33m is "going to have to come from the executive".

In an apparent u-turn on Sunday, the Sinn Féin minister told BBC’s Inside Politics that both the executive and Ulster GAA would have to jointly meet the £33m overrun.

The west Belfast stadium project was first announced more than a decade ago but has faced multiple setbacks.

Since 2013, it has lain derelict while the GAA pursued plans for a larger stadium on the site.

Issues over the funding resurfaced in the wake of Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon’s announcement on October 13 that she will recommend planning approval.

Initial planning approval for a 38,000-capacity venue was quashed by the High Court in 2014 following a challenge by nearby residents. The latest decision relates to a revised 34,000 seater stadium.

The GAA's pledge to contribute £15m was originally written into an agreement between it and the executive.

Ulster GAA did not rule out increasing its contribution yesterday but suggested that it would require the negotiation of a new agreement with the executive.

Carál Ní Chuilín said "it's not tenable" for the GAA to stick to the original £15m figure.

"I understand the GAA having that position prior to the planning application, but certainly if the executive is being asked to meet the overrun and the costs that have increased, the GAA should be doing the same thing as well, and I have told them that."

She said she recently met with Ulster GAA and the Co Antrim GAA board along with Finance Minister Conor Murphy.

"We are currently working on the final business case, because that couldn't be done in absence of planning approval," she said.

"Now that has happened, and I welcome that, we will be getting down to crunching the numbers.

"There are going to be substantial costs to this, it has overrun."

In a statement, a spokesperson for Ulster GAA said: "The GAA's contribution of £15m towards the Casement Park Redevelopment Project is underwritten in the funding agreement entered into with the NI Executive.

"Any variation to this funding agreement would be on the basis of agreement between the GAA and the executive."

The Department for the Communities' handling of the Casement Park project was heavily criticised in a new report published by Stormont’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week.

The committee said it was "appalled" that advice from experienced external consultants was only sought after initial planning permission was quashed in the 2014 legal challenge.

The PAC report also said delays and a more than doubling of development costs to £11m "could have been avoided" if there had been effective community engagement from the beginning.

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