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File photo dated 14-08-2023 of a general view of Casement Park in Belfast Alamy Stock Photo
Gregory Campbell

DUP MP says GAA need to ‘up their game’ if Casement Park is to be redeveloped

Gregory Campbell also called for the Irish government to ‘pony up’ around €35 million towards the redevelopment.

LAST UPDATE | 12 Oct 2023

DUP MP GREGORY Campbell has called on the GAA to “up their game” and for the Irish government to “pony up” around €35 million if Casement Park in Belfast is to be redeveloped.

European football’s governing body, Uefa, confirmed on Tuesday that Ireland and the UK will jointly host the tournament.

The Aviva Stadium will host games in the Republic of Ireland.

As part of the successful bid, Casement Park has been also listed as one of the stadiums where games will be played.

But the site is currently derelict and plans by the GAA to redevelop it with a 34,000 capacity have been mired in controversy and hit by delays.

The project has been delayed by a series of legal challenges and is further complicated by the lack of a functioning Executive at Stormont.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, the DUP’s Gregory Campbell reflected on his time as Sports Minister of Northern Ireland, when plans to redevelop Casement Park were floated.

gregory-campbell-dup-mp-for-east-londonderry-arrives-at-st-patricks-church-in-coleraine-for-a-service-to-mark-100-years-since-the-creation-of-northern-ireland-picture-date-sunday-may-2-2021 File image of the DUP's Gregory Campbell. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

“A few years ago, the time I was Sports Minister, there was a considerable need to redevelop stadia in the varying sporting disciplines,” said Campbell.

“There was money set aside after discussions and negotiations with all the codes and there was proportionate money set aside for each of the sporting disciplines.”

Arising from this, money was given to the Irish Football Association to redevelop Windsor Park, to Ulster Rugby for work at the Kingspan Stadium (then Ravenhill), and to the GAA for Casement Park.

“The others have been redeveloped some years ago,” said Campbell, “but the Casement Park issues ran into legal complications which went to the High Court.

“That was no one’s fault, that’s just what happened and people have a right to object.”

In the time since, the redevelopment of Casement Park has been hit by rising costs, with an original projected price tag from almost a decade ago of £77.5 million (€90m) now believed to have spiralled well above £100 million (€116m).

“So in the intervening period, costs have escalated considerably and now we’re into the European football championships and our contention is that the principle of proportionality has to be retained,” said Campbell.

“So we’re not against the redevelopment of Casement Park, but the GAA need to pay the proportionate amount that they agreed to pay, which initially was £15 million (€17.3m) when the overall cost was about £80 million.

“Now that it’s almost doubled, we would expect the GAA to pay roughly double what they initially agreed to pay and hopefully they will agree to that.”

Last week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Irish Government would be prepared to foot some of the bill.

When this was put to Campbell, he replied: “If they can do that, that should free up money from our own government to help redevelop the other football stadia in Northern Ireland that haven’t been redeveloped during the time that Windsor and Ravenhill were redeveloped and Casement should have been but wasn’t able to.

“If we get to that point, we get into a win-win.”

He then called on the GAA to “up their game” and put a cost on the amount that the Irish government should “pony up”.

“If the GAA up their game to £12 or £15 million  (€14-17m) more than they originally envisaged because of the doubling of costs, and if your own government can pony up for another £25 or £30 million (€29-€35m), that should release sufficient money from the Treasury in London to help us not just finish Casement, but to develop other grounds as well.

“Who on Earth would complain about that?”

Campbell also expressed concern as to the size of the ground at Casement, which will have a capacity of around 34,000.

“While it may get filled on rare occasions – it certainly will be filled during the European Championships – but that’s not going to come around every four or eight years,” said Campbell.

“It may be every 20 years possibly.”

Campbell added: “I don’t think anyone should equivocate about this being a good thing if it is done right.

“But if the monies are coming in from the sources that we are told they are coming in, if we can restore the parity basis, so that rugby and Gaelic and association football all benefit from this, there are other football grounds in Northern Ireland that dramatically need additional funding.

“If the money can be found for that, then any reservations or caveats will disappear, and it will be a genuine win-win.”


Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said today that opposing funding for the redevelopment of Casement Park is “incomprehensible”. 

McDonald said the project would benefit all communities in Northern Ireland.

“I find it incomprehensible that anybody would be against something that brings so much obvious good for everybody,” she said.

“This is a good news story for everybody right across the North, for sport, for the economy, for relationships between Britain and Ireland, north and south.

“So I think rather than complaining about or looking a gift horse in the mouth, we need to grab this now with both hands, make it happen, and of course get the executive back up and running.”

McDonald said the Casement Park redevelopment would be receiving a “substantial investment” from the Irish Government.

“There will be a contribution from Dublin, it’s not a confirmed figure, it would be a substantial investment from Dublin and rightly so,” she said.

“It’s a very, very important part of sporting infrastructure, particularly for Gaels in the north, but beyond that I’m sure the GAA will confirm, but it will be open for use by other sporting codes and for other purposes.

“So Dublin will be a partner in this, equally British government and of course, the GAA itself.

She added: “It can happen now and the Euro 28 gives that impetus and that context for this incredible project to be finally taken over.”

-With additional reporting from Press Association

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