Northern Ireland

Clock ticking for Casement Park as Euro bid confirmed, but funding remains final hurdle

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

Arguments over who should fund Casement Park's redevelopment are rumbling on - as Ireland prepares to welcome some of the biggest names in soccer at Euro 2028.

UEFA rubber stamped the Ireland and Britain joint bid as tournament hosts, with west Belfast's Casement Park the only proposed venue in the north.

Yet the stadium still remains a concept, with work on the long-awaited £150 million 34,000-seater venue - the home of Antrim GAA - yet to begin after years of setbacks since the project was first announced.

Now with the clock ticking to 2028, investment has been promised to get the new Casement Park built in time to welcome thousands of fans from across the continent, but among those to dampen excitement over the bid is the DUP's Gregory Campbell.

Read more:

  • ‘Discussions must start immediately on funding Casement Park for Euro 2028'
  • Dublin government's Casement Park cash pledge welcomed
  • Casement Park - the story so far

Ahead of Tuesday's confirmation by UEFA, the East Derry MP had warned soccer "must not lose out" as money is directed to Casement Park, where after the Euros are over, Gaelic football and hurling will be the main sports enjoyed by spectators.

In 2009, Mr Campbell was Stormont's culture minister and pulled the plug on the proposed £300m stadium at the former Maze Prison site.

The decision was to allow the north’s three main sporting bodies for Gaelic games, soccer and rugby to develop their own stadium proposals.

The new Windsor Park and Kingspan stadiums have long been built, while Casement faced hurdles including legal challenges from nearby residents, with planning approval only confirmed in 2021.

DUP MLA Stephen Dunne said last week his party opposed additional Stormont budget funding for Casement.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Republic is ready to invest in Ireland’s two host venues – Casement and Dublin’s Aviva Stadium – to ensure they are “ready to welcome the world”.

In a tweet posted following Uefa's confirmation, Mr Varadkar said he was "over the moon" at the news.

"It will be the biggest event ever hosted by our two islands working together," he said.

He suggested soccer clubs “all over the country” would benefit from the Euros, adding: “Football truly is a global sport, played on every continent & is transcendent of race, social class or gender.

“I really think we can use this tournament to showcase Ireland to the world and bring people together.”

Calls are being made for ground to be broken immediately at the west Belfast site, with Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill saying it was "our time to shine on the global stage".

Alliance MLA David Honeyford urged Casement to be “prioritised”, while SDLP MLA Justin McNulty said that as the British and Irish governments have pledged funding, “we need to get everyone around a table to hammer out the details so that work can commence at Casement without delay”.

  • This article was amended on October 11 2022