THE return of the Stormont Assembly is a positive for the long-awaited redevelopment of Casement Park, says GAA chief Tom Ryan.
Speaking at the publication of the Association’s Annual Report, Ryan reaffirmed the GAA commitment to seeing the Belfast stadium, which has been dormant for over a decade now, restored to its former glory as a fit-for-purpose modern stadium.
“The one thing that hasn’t wavered throughout the whole thing is our backing. We’re still there, we’re still backing it, we’ve still made a financial commitment to it and we’re still waiting for it to happen,” said Ryan.
“We can’t control all the factors and variables but we’ll play our part to make sure it will happen and we’ll exert every influence that we can. I think it was a positive is was designated as a venue for Euro 2022 and there’s a small bit of an irony that might be the catalyst for it to be delivered and so be it if that’s the way it’s going to be.
“Things have changed significantly in our favour since last year and the fact that the (Northern Ireland) Executive has been restored is a positive as well but we can only control what we can control but things are looking better overall.”
The GAA is also investing in Armagh’s St Malachy’s training facility in Portadown and Down’s training centre at Ballykinlar as well as St Conleth’s Park in Kildare, Semple Stadium and Longford’s new training complex.
Ryan said he didn’t know whether the GAA would come under pressure to make any increase on the £15million it has already earmarked for Casement. If it does, he doubts that extra funding can be found.
“I don’t know (if we will come under pressure),” he said.
“Where it’s at at the moment is the business case has to be re-cast so a new cost figure is going to emerge. At the time we made that (£15m) commitment, that was a significant burden and it was only last year that we reached full provision for it and that was 10 years’ later.
“Admirable and all as (the GAA accounts) are as a financial performance (a E6.5m surplus for 2023) there’s not a whole lot of scope for something in excess of what has been committed to Casement.
“Leaving Casement aside, there are almost 20 counties that have significant ambitions to do other stuff. So if we come under pressure to increase our contribution the scope is not there to do so.
“We want the stadium to open. The last 10-12 years we have been involved and that involves talking to people and having discussions but (investing more money) is a real, real problem for us.”
In his Annual Report, Ryan wrote that the contractor to undertake the work at Casement Park will be appointed later this year and that the stadium “should be” completed by the summer of 2027.
He continued: “There will be plenty of challenges and complexities ahead on a project of this scale and a lot of work for the Association planning to manage such a significant stadium asset. However, for now it is hugely exciting to see momentum and a clear line of sight to the construction work finally starting.”