UK government urged to ‘make position clear’ around rebuilding of Casement Park

The UK government has been urged to “make its position clear” over the rebuilding of Casement Park in Belfast as a venue for the Euro 2028 tournament.

Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry was speaking after reports suggested the Government has reservations about covering the funding gap, with a suggestion the latest estimate is topping £300 million.

The GAA stadium in west Belfast is one of the venues selected to host matches in the Euro 2028 football tournament, which is being jointly hosted by the UK and Ireland.

Uefa officials visited the derelict site last week.

Casement Park GAA stadium
Workmen at Casement Park GAA stadium in Belfast (PA)

The Irish government has pledged 50 million euro (£42.7 million) for the stadium while the GAA has committed to provide £15 million.

The UK government is facing calls to stump up the shortfall to ensure it is rebuilt on time.

On Friday, UTV reported that a letter from Northern Ireland Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris to Stormont Communities Minister Gordon Lyons contains an official estimate for the stadium of around £308m.

The letter reportedly includes an indication from Mr Heaton-Harris that the Government “will not accept a position where it is expected to cover the scale of funding gap there appears to exist”.

Mr Farry said his party wants to see Casement Park developed as an important asset for Northern Ireland.

“In the short term it is required for the Euros in 2028, and then as a wider asset for the GAA and whole community in Northern Ireland,” he told PA.

“It is incredibly frustrating at the moment in that there are all sorts of figures being bandied out and no one is putting an authoritative figure on the table.

“We need to see clarity and transparency around exactly what is required. We also need to see a clear statement from the UK government in terms of what they’re prepared to do in terms of making a major contribution towards this.

Stephen Farry MP, deputy leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, at Parliament Buildings on the Stormont estate in Belfast, ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday April 06 2023. See PA story ULSTER Agreement Alliance. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Alliance deputy leader and North Down MP Stephen Farry called for clarity (PA)

He added: “The Euros will put these islands on the global stage, and will also leave an important legacy as well, not just in terms of sports but the infrastructure available for the wider community.

“The Secretary of State has been on record in saying that he has guaranteed that the project will go ahead, and he does need to show the colour of his money as quickly as possible.

“The longer this goes on, the more and more in jeopardy this project is going to be. The various stakeholders perhaps need to get round a table and hammer out whatever issues they have between each other and be clear with the public of Northern Ireland about what is required in terms of the cost and what is now going to happen in terms of delivery, particularly around the timescale which is so critical.”

Last week, Stormont Finance Minister Caoimhe Archibald said that the Executive should deliver the redevelopment of Casement Park as it is a flagship project.

“We need to see what the British government is going to put on the table in respect of it, because they did commit that, as part of the Euros, they would be prepared to do that,” she said.

“There have been huge inflationary increases in cost of delivery in infrastructure projects. So it’s not a big surprise that the cost has gone up.”

A Northern Ireland Office spokesperson said: “The Northern Ireland Department for Communities is responsible for the redevelopment of Casement Park.

“The UK Government will need to receive confirmation of the updated cost of the Casement Park project from the Department for Communities before detailed consideration can be given to allocating taxpayers’ money, particularly given wider public sector funding challenges.”

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