Northern Ireland

Stormont department to lead Casement Park procurement as new contractor sought for Casement Park rebuild ahead of Euro 2028

The Casement Park redevelopment has been delayed
The Casement Park redevelopment has been delayed

A Stormont department is set to lead a new procurement process for the GAA’s troubled Casement Park redevelopment project after the remaining contractor withdrew from the project.

The Department for Communities (DfC) will drive forward the hunt for a new contractor after Co Derry-based construction firm Heron Brothers pulled out of the multi-million pound west Belfast project.

A ‘streamlined’ process will now be pursued by DfC using “existing procurement frameworks for major construction projects with pre-qualified contractors”.

The proposed 34,500 capacity Casement Park stadium is included in the joint Ireland/Britain bid to host Euro 2028 and concerns have been raised as to whether it will be ready in time for the major competition.

The GAA's Ulster Council has previously declined to respond directly when asked if the redevelopment contract will need to be retendered.

The withdrawal of Heron Bros was confirmed by the Ulster GAA on Friday.

The Casement Park stadium is currently derelict
The Casement Park stadium is currently derelict

In 2013 the company was appointed, along with English construction firm Buckingham Group, to redevelop the landmark GAA ground, which has lain dormant for a decade.

However, the project received a blow in August when Buckingham Group gave notice of its intention to appoint administrators.

It later went into administration owing more than £108m.

Read More: Casement Park rebuild hit by fresh setback

Casement Park 'due diligence processes' not completed

The GAA, DfC and Stormont's Central Procurement Directorate, which is part of the Department of Finance (DoF), later launched an exercise to "assess the potential implications" of events on the project.

Initially budgeted at £77 million, it is now estimated the delayed building project will cost around £160m to complete, with the GAA set to pick up just £15m of the total.

Earlier this year, Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris sid that the cash will be found to build the stadium.

In a statement the Ulster Council said they are “working closely with our partners in the Department for Communities (DfC) 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,” the statement added.

“Ulster GAA is bringing forward critical aspects of the construction programme to progress the project, at pace, during the process to secure a new main contractor in the coming months, including site clearance and a range of enabling works packages.”

The GAA confirmed that Heron Bros had “participated fully in a recent due diligence exercise….and demonstrated their capacity and capability to bring this project forward”.

“It has become clear that the restrictions of the Public Contract Regulations prevent Ulster GAA from pursuing its preferred option of retaining and modifying the existing contract for the project,” the statement added.

A spokeswoman for the DfC said it had been informed by the Ulster Council that the “existing Casement Park construction contract cannot be modified” in accordance with regulations.

The spokeswoman confirmed that other options are being considered.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

The spokeswoman added that the department is continuing to work closely with the GAA and other partners, including the Irish Football Association,  

“to ensure delivery in line with the UEFA requirements for the hosting of Euro 2028 matches in Northern Ireland”.

A spokesperson for Heron Bros said it was “disappointed” that the Ulster “GAA has been left with no choice but to bring the current procurement process for the rebuild of Casement Park to an end due to technical restrictions within the Public Contract Regulations”.

The spokesman added that the firm “now await details of any future procurement exercise before considering the potential for our company to be involved in any future bid to deliver the important stadium project”.

Sinn Fein West Belfast MP Paul Maskey
Sinn Fein West Belfast MP Paul Maskey

West Belfast Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey said “our focus is on getting contractors on the ground and getting Casement Park built now”.

Alliance MLA David Honeyford
Alliance MLA David Honeyford

Alliance assembly member David Honeyford said that while the latest development is “a disappointing set back, it is clear there is still a route to appoint a replacement quickly and we must continue to work with Ulster GAA in delivering this project”.

Justin McNulty
Justin McNulty

SDLP Sports Spokesperson Justin McNulty said that “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”.