Northern Ireland

New contractor sought for Casement Park rebuild ahead of Euro 2028

The Casement Park stadium in west Belfast has been earmarked as a location for Euro 2028 matches (Niall Carson/PA)
The Casement Park stadium in west Belfast has been earmarked as a location for Euro 2028 matches (Niall Carson/PA) The Casement Park stadium in west Belfast has been earmarked as a location for Euro 2028 matches (Niall Carson/PA)

A new contractor is being sought to rebuild the Casement Park stadium in west Belfast – which has been selected as a location to host Euro 2028 games.

Ulster GAA confirmed on Friday that its long-standing construction contractor will not proceed with the work, but said it was “determined and confident” the derelict stadium would be ready in time for the tournament.

Stormont’s Department for Communities said it was working closely with stakeholders to ensure delivery of the stadium in line with Uefa requirements.

European football’s governing body confirmed last month that the UK and Ireland will jointly host the Euros.

As part of the successful bid, Casement Park has been listed as one of the stadiums where games will be played.

But the site is currently derelict and plans by the GAA to redevelop it with a 34,000 capacity have been mired in controversy and hit by delays.

The project has been been delayed by a series of legal challenges and is further complicated by the lack of a functioning Executive at Stormont.

The redevelopment has also been hit by rising costs, with an original projected price tag from almost a decade ago of £77.5 million now believed to have spiralled well above £100 million.

The GAA is part-funding the project but has yet to reach an agreement with Stormont on how to cover a multimillion-pound shortfall.

It was announced back in 2013 that the stadium would be rebuilt in a joint venture by the England-based Buckingham Group and the Northern Ireland firm Heron Bros.

In September, the Buckingham Group went into administration and in a statement on Friday, Ulster GAA confirmed Heron Bros would not proceed to deliver the works contract.

It said: “We are working closely with our partners in the Department for Communities to progress procurement of a contractor using recognised frameworks for major construction projects.

“We are determined and confident that construction work will commence in line with the timelines required to host the Uefa Euro Championships in 2028.”

Ulster GAA said it was bringing forward aspects of the construction programme, including site clearance and a range of enabling works packages.

A Department for Communities spokesperson said: “We are progressing the options that are available via existing procurement frameworks for major construction projects with pre-qualified contractors, providing an effective delivery model for the project going forward.

“We remain fully committed to the delivery of this flagship project, which is uniquely placed to boost the development of both Gaelic games and football, as well as offering long-term economic and social benefits in Northern Ireland and beyond.

“We are continuing to work closely with the UCGAA and all our partners across government, local government and the IFA (Irish Football Association) to ensure delivery in line with the Uefa requirements for the hosting of Euro 2028 matches in Northern Ireland.”

General Election 2017
General Election 2017 Justin McNulty said work must begin quickly to attempt to secure a new contractor for Casement Park (Liam McBurney/PA)

SDLP MLA Justin McNulty said that work must commence immediately to find a new contractor.

He said: “Once again, the hope now is that local firms can be brought in as potential local delivery partners as quickly as possible.

“It’s important that we ensure access to the local supply chain that could secure and bolster huge numbers of local jobs and businesses.

“This is obviously an unplanned bump in the road in relation to the Casement Park project programme.

“However with a will to use every accelerated tendering vehicle at its disposal, together with an all hands on deck approach from the Department for Communities with the right people at the helm, Casement Park can be built in time for the Ulster Final in 2027 and Euro 2028.”