THE Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon’s announcement this week that she has recommended approval for the redevelopment of Casement Park will be good news to Gaels in Antrim and Ulster.
Ms Mallon said: “I believe this landmark stadium will be transformational in sporting, social and economic terms for Ulster and our island.”
However she did address some of the concerns that have caused problems for the proposal.
“There are a number of conditions on the application to try and address the residents’ concerns.”
The Ulster GAA response said that they felt this set up a clear path for the construction of the facility. Brian McAvoy, Chief Executive of Ulster GAA said: “Today’s decision provides a clear pathway for the redevelopment of Casement Park and will be a major boost to the GAA and wider society.”
The new Casement Park will deliver a state-of-the-art design and include an iconic bowl structure with a 34,578 capacity and a range of mixed-use facilities.
The current venue closed in 2013, and planning was overturned in 2014 after objections from local residents.
A new planning proposal was entered in 2017, with a 4,000 capacity reduction in size of the venue to around 34.000.
The initial cost was set at £77million. In February the Communities minister Deirdre Hargey said that the development would cost £110million.
The GAA said that they carried out a 32-week community engagement and 5000 people took part.
The news will be welcomed by many Gaels across Antrim, not least former Saffron player Ciaran Hamill who recently told Gaelic Life:
“It is a travesty that young players in Antrim don’t have an opportunity to play in that arena.
“It would mean so much for Antrim and Belfast to have Casement back there. So many of my good memories are from playing in Casement. Sigerson, Corn na nOg, Intermediate championships.
“As a proud Antrim man, you would love to see them doing well in Casement.
“Casement is a big part of my heart as an Antrim player.”
By Ronan Scott