Casement Park: Jarlath Burns rules out more funds from GAA

‘Point of principle’ that the association does not pay more to Belfast stadium project

New GAA president Jarlath Burns has ruled out the prospect of the GAA raising their contribution to the Casement Park project. Speaking on BBC’s Good Morning Ulster on Monday, he said that the issue had become a point of principle.

At present the association has guaranteed £15 million (€18m) but that figure hasn’t changed since the original estimated cost of £77 million more than 10 years ago. Current estimates are shooting upwards with speculation that the final figure might come in at more than £200 million.

To date the only additional funding allocated for the proposed 34,000-capacity stadium has been from the Irish Government, which last week budgeted for €50 million towards Casement as part of the Shared Island Initiative.

The British government has yet to announce its contribution and a final cost has yet to be reached. The project got some momentum last year with the announcement by Uefa that Casement would be the only venue in Northern Ireland suitable to host fixtures in Euro 2028.

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Initially Northern Ireland Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris was enthusiastic, saying last May: “We’ll get the money, don’t you worry.”

In Monday’s radio interview the GAA president said that it would not be fair to ask the association to raise its contribution.

“We [the GAA] are not found wanting when it comes to spending money throughout the country but on this particular issue for me it is a point of principle.

“We have pledged £15m [€18m]. In the programme for government for the last 12 years, there is a very strong commitment that Casement Park and it should be delivered. It is not our fault that the Maze stadium was abandoned. That should have been built and I don’t think we should be penalised for that.”

The Maze Prison project was a proposed shared facility from which other sports withdrew their support, leaving the GAA as the last man standing.

On Saturday at his first media conference as president, Burns said that the British government needed to confirm their contribution. “The one thing that we need first is certainty, and I’m surprised that they haven’t come out with a statement already to say exactly how much they are giving.”

He was asked on Saturday what would happen if Casement didn’t get built.

“Well, if the money doesn’t come, the Euros don’t come and it goes back to being a GAA ground again and we would have to take the money that has been promised and build a stadium with that money.

“It will be a point whether or not we can build a provincial stadium that is going to be able to take an Ulster final of 34,000 in that space or just maybe a smaller stadium but they are things I don’t even want to consider as we wait for this announcement from the British government.

“But they have promised us that they are going to give us this money. There are so many positive elements to this that I think it would be really poor of them if they really don’t deliver on this promise.”

He emphasised on the radio that he would not have the final word on the matter but that his vote would be not to make more money available.

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Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times