Stormont communities minister says Casement Park redevelopment ‘entirely dependent’ on government funding

Gordon Lyons has said soccer must also receive further investment if UK funding provided to cover Casement Park costs

An ariel view of Casement Park in west Belfast. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

Stormont’s communities minister has said the likelihood of the new Casement Park being built is “entirely dependent” on government money for the long-awaited project being made available, and said the current funding is “not enough”.

The DUP’s Gordon Lyons said the funding needed to redevelop the home of Antrim GAA and the stadium chosen to host Euro 2028 soccer matches is “considerably more than what we originally envisioned”.

It is estimated work must begin on building the new stadium by May, in order for it to be completed in time for the Euros, but the increasing cost of the project - initially estimated at £77.5m - is placing the meeting of the deadline in doubt.

Nadhim Zahawi visit to Belfast
Communities minister Gordon Lyons. PICTURE: DAVID YOUNG/PA

In an interview with BBC NI, Mr Lyons refused to name an exact figure he believed would be the final cost of the project, which some have suggested could reach £200m.

The Stormont Executive had initially pledged £62.5m, and the GAA £15m for Casement, while money will also come from the British and Irish governments.

However, Mr Lyons said his department did not have “clarity” from either London or Dublin.

Cartoon showing members of the Stormont executive standing around a large heart with £113m? written on it
Ian Knox cartoon 14/2/24

“That’s going to be key if this is going to progress, that we have an understanding of how much that is, but that’s not something we have at this minute,” he said.

The minister added of Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris: “If he has a figure in mind, it’s not one that this department is aware of.”

Speaking of overall costs, he said: “The money that was made available...isn’t going to be enough to cover the expected costs, and that does have consequences.”

He said the chances of the new stadium being built was “entirely dependent on the funding envelope being made available”.

In a weekend interview with the BBC, Mr Lyon’s DUP colleague and Stormont deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly said any extra government money for Casement must be on a “fair and equitable basis” with other sports.

Mr Lyons echoed the sentiment, adding: “If there is additional UK public funds committed to Casement Park, I think it’s important we see that investment in football as well. A footballing tournament should have a footballing legacy.”

Asked if GAA fans would think Casement Park is “doomed” under a DUP minister, he said he was a minister “not for one particular sport, not for one particular section of society”.

Mr Lyons added: “Nobody should have any fear about me being in this position.”