Casement Park: The future of the project remains uncertain, minister says

‘The big difficulty that we face with Casement is going to be the issue of funding,’ says Communities Minister Gordon Lyons

Ulster GAA announced on Thursday that “pre-enabling works for the development of the new Casement Park” will commence next week.

Since the ground closed in 2013, the ill-starred stadium project has been delayed by objections, steadily climbing costs, that have more than doubled since the original estimate of £77 million (€90 million) and most recently one of the contractors going into administration.

Casement has been chosen as a venue for the 2028 European soccer championships, that has come as a lifeline for the west Belfast venue but political controversy followed with the DUP objecting to the cost and calling on the GAA to raise its original support of £15 million (€17.5 million).

Last week Tom Ryan, GAA director general said, “there’s not a whole lot of scope for something in excess of what has been committed to Casement”.


The return of the Northern Ireland executive has also fuelled optimism that work can finally go ahead.

News that preliminary work is to commence will come, according to Ulster GAA “as very welcome news for all GAA members in Antrim, Ulster and Ireland”. Site clearance work will continue through March and April.

Commenting on the announcement Ulster GAA stadium board chair Tom Daly said, “Commencing works on site has always been a crucial milestone for the redevelopment of Casement Park and we are looking forward to this exciting new phase of the project with a targeted timeline for the delivery of Ulster GAA’s provincial stadium and Antrim’s new home.

“It has been a long and frustrating journey to get to this point, however this is an important step forward as we prepare for the delivery phase of the project. Casement Park will host some of the largest and most significant GAA games on the island and it will also be a seven day a week hub that the whole community can access and enjoy.

“With Casement Park being the only regional venue that can host unique global events such as Euro 2028, we are also delighted to support our friends and colleagues at the Irish FA by providing the stadium as a tournament venue for the bid and we are excited by the opportunities that this will create for all of society.

“With works commencing on site next week we will be working with the local community to ensure that they are fully informed on every step of the journey. As our team commences this phase of the project, we would like to thank the local community for their support and patience over the last number of years as we plan for an exciting new future for Casement Park.”

The future of the project remains uncertain however, as new Communities Minister, Gordon Lyons of the DUP said on Wednesday: “The big difficulty that we face with Casement is going to be the issue of funding, because the money that was made available and that we stand over is not going to be enough to cover the expected costs, and that does have consequences.”

There have been indications from London and Dublin that there would be financial support for the project, which Lyons referenced. “That is going to be key if this is going to be progressed, that we have an understanding of how much that is – but that is not something we have at this moment in time.”

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Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times