Ulster GAA calls for political action on Casement Park stalemate

GAA president Jarlath Burns previously cast doubt on the prospects of hosting Euro 2028 matches in Belfast

Ulster GAA has called on politicians to find a resolution to the uncertainty surrounding Casement Park. Photograph: The Irish Times

Ulster GAA has called on the Northern Ireland Executive to discuss the stalled Casement Park project as a matter of urgency, after confirmation there will be no progress or update on British government funding for the proposed redevelopment until after the July 4th election.

GAA president Jarlath Burns, speaking this week, warned time was running out for Casement Park to host Euro 2028 games.

And Ulster GAA now want Stormont politicians to jumpstart the flailing project.

Ulster GAA stated: “As the world waits for Euro 2024 to kick off this weekend in Germany, the time is quickly approaching for the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to decide if they want to host the third-largest sporting event in the world, in Belfast, in four years’ time.”

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“The recent comments of Uachtarán CLG (GAA president) Jarlath Burns, reflects the frustration and dismay regarding the delay in the development of Casement Park relating to both the procurement of a main contractor and the project’s funding package.

“Following our joint letter with the Irish FA to the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak we have had confirmation that details of government funding will not be made available until after the UK Parliament elections on July 4.

“To keep this global and transformational opportunity alive, we are now urgently calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to collectively discuss the opportunities that Euro 2028 will create for our society and the reputational, economic and sporting risk of losing this global event.

“We are also calling for the procurement tender documents to be released without further delay to ensure the project development remains within Uefa timelines.”

Jarlath Burns expressed doubt that Casement Park would be rebuilt in time for Euro 2028. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

In February, the Irish government, as part of an €800 million cross-Border funding package, committed €50 million (£42 million) to the redevelopment of Casement Park while the GAA has pledged £15 million (€17.5 million). The British government has yet to confirm what its ‘significant contribution’ will be.

The original estimate for the redevelopment was £77 million (€90 million) but that has spiralled over the last decade and one recent costing suggested the price could now exceed £300 million (€355 million).

Burns fears the sand clock might already have run out on getting the project completed in time for the Euros.

“I’m very, very disappointed with the pace of how it’s gone,” said Burns. “It’s not looking as if we’re going to get the Euros.

“Having attended the final of the Europa League in the Aviva [last month], I can see what Uefa bring to a stadium and to an event. West Belfast deserves that and we’re not getting it.

“It’s just a great pity because the carrot was dangled in front of us and then it was taken away.”

However, Ulster GAA officials remain hopeful the project can be salvaged.

“Working in partnership with the Irish FA we remain fully committed to doing everything we can in the coming weeks to ensure that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity can be delivered for all of society,” stated Ulster GAA.

“Casement Park will be built, and we will continue to work with all partners who provided commitments within the Regional Stadia Programme and successive Programme for governments to ensure that the strategic stadia needs of the Gaels of Ulster will be delivered.”

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times