Costs of redeveloping Casement Park remain unconfirmed – Little-Pengelly

No confirmed costs for the development of Casement Park have been received by the Stormont Executive Office, the deputy First Minister has said.

The currently derelict GAA ground in west Belfast has been earmarked as a venue for the Euro 2028 football tournament.

Reports over the weekend suggested the cost of building a new stadium on the site for the Euros could cost £308 million.

In 2011, the Stormont Executive committed £62.5 million to the project.

Stormont Assembly
Jim Allister described the project as being ‘out of control’ (Liam McBurney/PA)

A leaked letter reported by UTV on Friday suggested that the UK Government has reservations around plugging the remaining funding gap.

During Executive Office questions in the Northern Ireland Assembly on Monday, TUV MLA Jim Allister described the reported cost of the development of Casement Park as being “out of control”.

He questioned deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly as to whether it was “fiscally responsible” to include it in Northern Ireland’s programme for government, “particularly given the high-level need in health and education”.

The deputy First Minister responded saying they have not had confirmation around the cost of the project yet.

“There is a commitment to the Casement project as part of the multi sports programme,” she said.

“That fiscal commitment remains.

“There has been no change to that fiscal commitment but, of course, we are aware, there has been a huge amount of speculation, but it has yet to be confirmed, that costs have increased.

“There would, of course, be inflationary increase, but it does appear that costs have significantly increased.

“We have not yet had information about the totality of what that cost is.”

She added: “The Minister for Communities (Gordon Lyons) will be bringing forward advice in relation to this issue but, at the moment, the commitment on the programme for government is to the allocation as set out in the multi sports package that also included rugby and football at that time.”

Meanwhile, Mr Lyons has rejected a claim by Alliance leader Naomi Long that some of the opposition to the development of Casement is “sectarian”.

He told the BBC: “It is unfair for people to say that sectarianism is at play here, what is at play is a significant funding issue – the issue here is not about sectarianism.

“We need clarity from funding partners and that is something we continue to discuss.”

As part of a deal involving funding for football, rugby and GAA after plans for a multi sport stadium at the Maze site fell through in 2009, there were redevelopments of the Windsor Park football ground and the rugby ground at Ravenhill.

However, the redevelopment of Casement was delayed by a series of planning disputes and legal challenges and the initial estimated cost of £77.5 million has spiralled to the latest reported estimate of £308 million.

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