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Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill, speaking during the Ireland's Future event in Belfast today Alamy Stock Photo
GAA

Sinn Féin's Michelle O’Neill tells unity rally that Casement Park will be 'built on my watch'

The derelict ground has been earmarked as a venue for five Euro 2028 matches.

CASEMENT PARK WILL be built “on my watch”, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said.

O’Neill was addressing a major rally on Irish unification in Belfast today.

More than 2,000 people attended the Ireland’s Future Pathway to Change event in the SSE Arena.

O’Neill referred to the ongoing uncertainty over funding for the rebuilding of Casement Park GAA stadium in west Belfast.

The derelict ground has been earmarked as a venue for five Euro 2028 matches.

However, the funding needed to build the stadium in time for the tournament is still not in place and there are concerns the delays will see Belfast missing out on a tournament being jointly hosted by the UK and Ireland.

contractors-with-excavators-have-begun-clearing-the-concrete-seating-terraces-at-gaa-stadium-in-belfast-northern-ireland-ahead-of-the-long-delayed-redevelopment-of-the-stadium-the-maintenance-and-p Excavators clearing concrete seating terraces at Casement Park in March of this year Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

This week, GAA president Jarlath Burns was pessimistic about the prospect of the venue staging games in the showpiece soccer tournament in four years.

O’Neill said her preference was that the ground would be ready in time for the Euros, but said that in any case it would be rebuilt while she is in office.

She said: “In case there is any doubt out there, Casement Park will be built on my watch.”

She also said she had a positive relationship with the DUP’s deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly.

She said: “We have common ground, the common ground is prosperity for everybody.

“Our common ground is around trying to build our community.”

She said Westminster had shown it would never serve the interests of people in Northern Ireland, which demonstrated the need for constitutional change.

Eleven political parties from across the island are taking part in the event on Saturday.

Former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and GAA president Jarlath Burns will also speak.

Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams also attended.

Opening the event, senator Frances Black, Ireland’s Future chairwoman, said: “It is undeniable that change is imminent.”

The Alliance Party’s Nuala McAllister took part in a panel discussion after party leader Naomi Long withdrew.

McAllister said the priority for her party was to reform the Stormont powersharing institutions.

She said: “We do not want to create a divide here where we radicalise on either side.”

DUP founding member Wallace Thompson and loyalist paramilitary David Adams are also taking part in a panel discussion called The Protestant Perspective.

The stated aim of Ireland’s Future is to promote debate and discussion about what a united Ireland would look like. It is campaigning for a referendum on reunification.

The group says Brexit has created a fresh impetus for constitutional change, with more people looking at unification as a way to mitigate the consequences of the UK’s departure from the EU.

Union leader Mick Lynch also took part in a panel discussion.

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