April 21, 2024

Casement Park: Economy cash injection from newly built stadium could be ‘huge’ says UUP councillor

The Ards and North Down representative made the comments on X.

The west Belfast venue has been chosen to host three games at the 2028 European football championships, but the development has divided opinion following a huge rise in projected costs over the ten years since the build was first announced.

Originally carrying a cost of £77.5m – £62.5m from Stormont and £15m from the GAA – the project has been hampered by legal challenges and currently has no contractor for the development.

While the Irish government has pledged £43m to the project, work is required to start in the summer in order for the stadium to be ready for the tournament in four years’ time.

Ulster Unionist councillor Linzi McLaren, who was elected to Ards and North Down Borough Council in May last year, took to X to give her opinion on the political row over the stadium that has dragged on for more than a decade.

Ms McLaren – a former police officer – said government investment in stadia was vital for the economy.

“Governments invest in stadia. Full stop. Because the injection of cash into the economy is huge,” she said.

“People travel in droves – money to our transport infrastructure. People make a trip – our hotels benefit. People need fed – our restaurants and cafes benefit.

Cllr Linzi McLaren

“The GAA need, deserve and were promised a stadium. The IRFU and IFA get revenue from the parks that our government built.

“Debate over the extra funding needs to be had, but it needs to be an objective debate, free from whatever mistrust people feel toward the GAA as an organisation.

“Take politics out of sport and put our energy into the notion that sport does and should bring people together. My personal opinion only.”

It comes after newly elected GAA president Jarlath Burns said it would be “unfair” to expect the organisation to pay more than the £15m already committed to the rebuild.

Former Armagh GAA star Mr Burns, who formally took up the role of GAA president at the weekend, said he was against any increase in the organisation’s contribution.

Mr Burns also claimed it was the GAA’s lobbying work that delivered the funding announcement from the Irish Government. As such, he said the GAA was responsible for bringing in more than £55 million for the project.

Jarlath Burns

“I think it’s a wee bit unfair for people to be talking of the GAA to come up with more money considering the £75 million that we invest every year in facilities and infrastructure,” he told BBC Radio Ulster.

Mr Burns said the GAA had been fully behind now abandoned plans for a multi-sports stadium at the Maze in Lisburn and claimed the association was being asked to pay more because that project never materialised.

“It is a point of principle,” he said. “We have pledged £15 million. In the programme for government for the last 12 years there is a very strong commitment that Casement Park should be delivered and I will be voting against any plan that the GAA should give any more money for that.

“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.”

He emphasised that he did not have the final decision and the GAA at a national level may still reconsider the issue of funding Casement Park.

“I am one vote and my vote will be very clearly no,” he said.

Mr Burns added: “Perhaps the GAA at national level at some stage might decide to change, but I would not be in favour of it.”

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