Common sense is needed ahead of judicial review

By Staff Reporter

Local businessman Harry Fitzsimons – who has recently returned home to Andersonstown after being held in Italy as part of a £400m Mafia investigation – has thrown himself into the debate on the future of Casement Park.

The Owenvarragh man, a Lámh Dhearg club member who lives in the shadow of the Andersonstown stadium, has spoken out just weeks before a decision is expected on a judicial review of the controversial development.

Mr Fitzsimons, who is also a member of the Casement Social Club, has appealed for common sense from all parties involved in the debate and queries whether some are trying to “frighten” local Gaels with “dire scenarios”   such as Antrim being left without a home.

He also called on the developer to sit down with residents and finally commit to allaying their fears.

Last week the Andersonstown News revealed that if the new 38,000 Casement Park is given the go ahead following the September 9 judicial review then the Casement Park social club will relocate to the shops behind Owenvarragh during the construction period of the stadium.

The GAA stalwart said: “During a meeting of the Casement Social Club in Casement Park earlier this month to discuss the new social club and development at Casement,” he told the Andersonstown News, “it was suggested that if the judicial review was to fail, Antrim could find itself in a dire situation of having no headquarters or county grounds.

“Is this a red herring or is someone flying a kite to frighten members of the Casement Social Club, and more seriously, Antrim footballers, hurlers and clubs, threatening the loss of our county grounds and facilities?

“Those individuals who suggested such a dire scenario – the loss of grounds for Antrim GAA – would do well to take on board that there will always be an Antrim headquarters and grounds for Antrim teams and supporters, even if we have to go back to the times of raising our own funds.

“The strong will of the Antrim Gael prevailed even through the troubles, as local supporters ensured the preservation of and access to our grounds. Grounds were maintained to the highest standards, games were played, and visitors were always facilitated. No one should underestimate the strength of Antrim and its clubs, in doing what is necessary to keep our Gaelic games and our culture alive, even when too many in the past tried to destroy it.”

He added: “Is it not time for the builder of the development to meet with each resident and allay any fears, and if necessary, facilitate those concerns with whatever is necessary, either through double glazing or triple glazing of windows, raising of garden walls, provision of landscaping services, facilitating boundary incursion etcetera?” he asked.

“I wish to stress that as a child, and even in more recent times, I remember Ulster finals held at Casement, with an excess of 38,000 supporters easily accommodated at the park, with little to no annoyance to residents.

“And is it not time that the Antrim Board meet with the social club members, who are all good GAA supporters and in many cases former GAA players themselves, to come together and end this debacle of ‘them and us’ for the good of the whole community and county?

“Monies generated by the new complex will filter down to all Antrim clubs and organisations, creating a new confidence and dynamism for all our county teams in the future. It is time for common sense to prevail.”

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