Ulster GAA says it can plan for stadium after Casement Park legal ruling

Ulster GAA has welcomed the latest ruling in the Casement Park legal challenge saying it can now "finally plan for the delivery of our provincial stadium".

A High Court judge dismissed the challenge mounted to former Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon’s decision to grant planning permission for the redevelopment of Casement - despite identifying a technical breach of a legal requirement to table the issue for Executive Committee consideration. Mr Justice Humphreys held that other Stormont ministers were fully briefed, and that she retained legal authority to take the decision. Ulster GAA described the ruling as "truly momentous".

"The decision was clear, unambiguous and emphatic," said a spokesman.

"We recognise the outstanding work of the Casement Park Project Team, their expertise, professionalism, and dedication throughout this long journey.

"They have worked tirelessly to ensure that the transformational sporting, cultural and economic benefits of this iconic stadium can finally be realised.

"We commend the Department for Infrastructure for their comprehensive approach to the planning process which was vindicated by today’s decision.

"Our full efforts will now be focused on continuing to work with the Department for the Communities and its Regional Stadia Team, finalising all remaining aspects of the business case, implementing our extensive and far-reaching community engagement and benefits programme as we move towards the construction phase of the project.

"Finally, we thank Gaels and the community of West Belfast for their overwhelming support and strength of voice throughout this process. To those that are opposed to the project I would like to assure them that we will be good neighbours, working closely with everyone throughout construction and when operational to bring positive benefits to the whole community.

The Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has said the judgment represented a "really positive day" for the GAA.

She told reporters at Stormont: "We have had a generation of young people now who have not had the opportunity to play in Casement Park and now after today's judgment we move at pace in terms of making sure that we can get Casement Park built, to ensure that we do have a stadium that is fit for purpose and to really showcase the sports offering that we have here across the island and across these islands as well."

The last projected build cost for Casement Park stadium was £110million, having originally been estimated at £77.5m when the plan was first developed.

However, it is expected the delay caused by the court challenge combined with soaring inflation rates could see the final cost reach well in excess of £110 million.

Asked whether the approval of the wider Stormont Executive would be required to release additional funds for the build, Minister Deirdre Hargey insisted the devolved administration had already signed off on the wider project.

The minister said the finances were "secure" but she said it was "too early" to give an indication on the final bill.

"I think this has been a priority of the Executive, the Executive signed off on this as part of the regional stadia priority," she said.

"So, the decision has already been made."