Northern Ireland news

Casement Park price tag 'could rise to £140-150m', Paul Givan claims

Casement Park in west Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

INFRASTRUCTURE minister Nichola Mallon has said she will be "pressing for the Executive to provide the full funding required" for the new Casement Park stadium.

It comes as first minister Paul Givan suggested the cost could rise to more than £140m - almost twice the original budget of £77.5m.

Stormont previously pledged £62.5m to the redevelopment of the ground in west Belfast, with the GAA to contribute £15m.

But years of setbacks have led costs to spiral, with Ulster GAA revealing in 2019 the figure had risen to around £110m - and is even higher now.

It has indicated it does not intend to increase its contribution to the project, which it hopes can be completed by summer 2024.

On Wednesday Ms Mallon hailed "a historic day" for the GAA as she confirmed planning permission for the planned 34,578-capacity stadium on its existing site on the Andersonstown Road.

"This has been a long and complex process, predating my time as minister, however we must now move forward and see progress on the ground, progress that will bring many sporting, social and economic benefits not just to west Belfast but right across the city and beyond."

With attention now turning to the funding shortfall, she told The Irish News the Executive should meet the full cost.

"As the SDLP’s minister around the Executive, I will be pressing for the Executive to provide the full funding required to get Casement built without any further delay."

Communities minister Deirdre Hargey also said her department will be "working at pace" to deliver the stadium following the planning approval.

"Over the coming weeks I will be working closely with our stadia programme board, the UCGAA, the Department of Finance and the Executive to ensure that the full business case for the redevelopment of Casement Park progresses at pace," she said.

"This investment will be a major boost for Belfast and the wider economy."

The project is a commitment in the New Decade, New Approach agreement and its construction would complete the 'Regional Stadia Programme', following the redevelopment of Kingspan and Windsor Park.

Stephen McGeehan from Ulster GAA told the BBC: "We have said for some time that the GAA's maximum contribution to this project and programme is £15m.

"People should also remember this is an Executive programme.

"Soccer have had their strategic requirements delivered at Windsor Park, similarly at Ravenhill, and we congratulate them for that, and we now have waited an awful long time for that to happen for the GAA."

But Mr Givan told the BBC that based on an inflationary figure of around 25 per cent for capital projects, Casement could have "more like a £140m or £150m price tag".

Asked if he would still support the project, he said no decisions could be made until the cost was worked out.

"In principle, Casement Park should be redeveloped but I think it would be churlish of any government not to be looking at all the costs associated with capital projects."

Meanwhile, former DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly said she believed there should be a "fair and balanced package for all three sports".

"Reminder that initial funding package arose from abandonment of Maze national stadium plans for all three sports," she wrote on Twitter.

"Balance of funding to regional NI football stadia, part of that package, is still outstanding and must be delivered asap.

"Any new package after that must also be wider as part of that package was funding for Ravenhill, Casement and Windsor Park.

"Any new funding package must be same."

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