GAA 'not looking to increase' its contribution to Casement Park cost
THE GAA has warned that it is “not looking to increase” its original financial commitment towards re-building Casement Park despite the anticipated greater cost of the project now.
GAA Director-General Tom Ryan accepts that there will “be a difficulty over how that gap is bridged” but the Association is focused on fiscal prudence after the greater than expected outlay on Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork.
Although he noted in his Annual Report that “the costs of providing the originally planned GAA stadium have doubtless increased significantly” the GAA appears to be looking towards the governments to make up any shortfall, stating “we will need to secure additional public funding to ensure delivery of the Casement Park stadium”.
Ryan indicated that Central Council’s contribution would not be larger than the £15m agreed to in 2011: “Our resources are finite as well. We did make a commitment at the time and we’re still in a position to honour that commitment.
“We haven’t had any discussions with anybody about subsequent cost increases or subsequent demands so, as things stand at the minute, our commitment is as it stands.”
The various delays over the re-build of the west Belfast venue are to blame, stated Ryan: “The difficulty with Casement Park is that business case is probably about eight to 10 years old at this stage, so what is approved is eight or 10 years out of date.
“All of our attention up to now has been focused on the planning process and making sure it gets through the various judicial reviews and so on.
“When it emerges out of that, the expectation is that the cost of the thing will be significantly more for everybody who was committed 10 years ago.
“There is going to be a difficulty over how that gap is bridged – and that’s before you even turn a sod on it. That’s nothing at all to do with Pairc Ui Chaoimh or any other project the GAA is undertaking, that’s unique to itself.”
However, when pressed on the matter again, Ryan appeared to say that other stadium developments were factors: “We have no automatic plans to increase that [£15m contribution] and it’s not something we could countenance lightly given the three or four things that Ger [Mulryan] mentioned which are going to be a significant strain on our resources.”
GAA Director of Finance Ger Mulryan spoke of the redevelopment plans for Navan, Waterford, and Newbridge, and declared: “All our capital projects are now sizeable pieces of construction and bring a sizeable price tag with them.
“My word of caution for 2020 is ‘balanced’. We can’t just continue to build capital projects because they seem like a good thing… We really need to project manage these and scale them accordingly.”
Ryan did allude to various positive factors surrounding the Casement Park situation, including “the restoration of the NI Assembly and NI Executive” and the agreement of the British and Irish governments, signed up to by the northern political parties, which included “a firm commitment to deliver a new Casement Park as part of the Regional Stadia Programme.”
He added that “it is hoped that a positive planning decision for the 34,000-capacity stadium at the west Belfast site will be made within months.”
Ryan also pointed to the recent visit to the stadium of Sinn Fein Minister for Finance Conor Murphy and his party colleague, the Minister for Communities Deirdre Hargey.
However, asked how confident he was about additional financial assistance coming from the British/ Stormont, Ryan was unsure:
“I really don’t know, I really don’t know. There was the absence of an administration up there – now at least there is a bit of clarity around it. There is an administration we can engage with.
“We’re also keen not to skew the process, wait until the actual planning part is concluded before we get into the nitty-gritty, but I don’t have a sense of [government intentions]”.