Opposing funding for Casement Park ‘incomprehensible’, says Sinn Fein president

Opposing funding for the redevelopment of Casement Park is “incomprehensible”, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has said.

Ms McDonald’s comments came after DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson insisted there would be no extra money from Stormont for the project.

The Sinn Fein president addressed the media in Belfast alongside vice-president Michelle O’Neill and party colleague Conor Murphy.

Ms McDonald said the project would benefit all communities in Northern Ireland.

“I find it incomprehensible that anybody would be against something that brings so much obvious good for everybody,” she said.

“This is a good news story for everybody right across the North, for sport, for the economy, for relationships between Britain and Ireland, north and south.

“So I think rather than complaining about or looking a gift horse in the mouth, we need to grab this now with both hands, make it happen, and of course get the executive back up and running.”

As well as a series of legal challenges, the redevelopment has also been hit by rising costs, with an original projected price tag from almost a decade ago of £77.5 million now believed to be well above £100 million.

The GAA is part-funding the project but has yet to reach an agreement with Stormont on how to cover a multimillion-pound shortfall.

The derelict Casement Park GAA stadium in Belfast Credit: Niall Carson/PA

Ms McDonald said the Casement Park redevelopment would be receiving a “substantial investment” from the Irish Government.

“There will be a contribution from Dublin, it’s not a confirmed figure, it would be a substantial investment from Dublin and rightly so,” she said.

“It’s a very, very important part of sporting infrastructure, particularly for Gaels in the north, but beyond that I’m sure the GAA will confirm, but it will be open for use by other sporting codes and for other purposes.

“So Dublin will be a partner in this, equally British government and of course, the GAA itself.

She added: “It can happen now and the Euro 28 gives that impetus and that context for this incredible project to be finally taken over.”

Uefa confirmed on Tuesday that the UK and Ireland will jointly host the tournament and as part of that successful bid, Casement Park has been listed as one of the stadiums where games will be played.

The redevelopment would give the now-derelict stadium a 34,000-person capacity.

Ms McDonald said politicians should follow the example of sporting associations backing the Casement Park redevelopment.

“I think that everybody in politics should take their lead from the sporting associations themselves,” she said.

“Because what I know is that the IFA and the IRFU, along with the GAA, are very much behind this project, and I think they’re leading from the front.

“And I want to commend them for their collaboration, for their sense of what is good collectively for everybody across the north.

“And I think everybody in politics, let’s just take note of that and follow that example.”

Ms McDonald said the Euros being held in the UK and Ireland in 2028 was “great news, not just for the north, but for all Ireland and indeed, Britain.”

“Casement Park is a flagship project. It’s been agreed and it’s been delayed for 10 years,” she said.

“It’s been agreed, and it’s going to happen and I think that’s a fantastic news story for everybody concerned.”

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