Tory Casement pledge almost out of extra time - The Irish News view

Time is running out for the British government to keep its promise about redeveloping Casement Park for Euro 2028

Mr Sunak’s campaign stop in Belfast saw him visit an advanced maritime manufacturing facility in the Titanic Quarter
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris toured Belfast harbour in a zero-emission boat (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

With the death rattle that is soon to consign the Tories to an electoral grave getting ever louder, it is difficult to understand why Prime Minister Rishi Sunak bothered to visit Belfast yesterday.

There are no votes in it for him, after all. The Conservatives aren’t taken seriously in any of our 18 constituencies.

Nor have they any friends left among the north’s main parties. Even within the DUP, so long the useful idiots happy to nod through various Tory policies inimical to their own interests, there are some stirrings of gumption that it would be wise to firmly distance themselves from Sunak and co.

Moving on from the hilariously hapless circumstances of his general election announcement, Mr Sunak, now wearing a lifejacket and an anorak that would have served him well during Wednesday’s deluge, toured Belfast harbour in a small boat. This was perhaps an unfortunate image for a man who has spent much of his beleaguered spell in Number 10 promising to ‘stop the boats’.

Back on terra firma, Mr Sunak said he was proud of the Windsor Framework and seeing devolution restored.

The counter-view, of course, is that the framework was only necessary because of the enormously destabilising effects on Northern Ireland of the Brexit that the Conservatives, facilitated by the DUP, pursued, with Stormont’s two-year collapse among its legacies. We shouldn’t be too thankful to the arsonists for dousing the fire they started, and which continues to smoulder and pollute our politics.

Mr Sunak, wearing a lifejacket and an anorak that would have served him well during the Downing Street deluge, toured the harbour in a small boat. This was an unfortunate image for a man who has pledged to ‘stop the boats’

The prime minister could have garnered a more positive response if he had confirmed that the British government was going to keep to its promises about funding Casement Park.

He was unable to answer our political correspondent directly on the matter, instead deferring to the secretary of state.

Chris Heaton-Harris said that when he had pledged to find the money for the stadium’s redevelopment in time for Euro 2028, the costs were in the region of £166 million. Because those costs have risen, the government was now in the position to make only what he vaguely described as “a significant contribution”.

Without much conviction, Mr Heaton-Harris added that “Northern Ireland will see a wonderful legacy of the Euros when they come”, at which point Mr Sunak slapped him on the back and thanked him for “the incredible job” he has done.

Both men know that within weeks Casement Park, much less any of the other issues that they’ve botched here, such as the legacy act, will no longer be their problem.

Yet there is still time - although it is fast running out - for this government to do the right thing and show, albeit belatedly, that it can keep at least some promises.