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Maskey welcomes news as Attwood backs residents

By Staff Reporter

Local politicians have pledged to continue to work with residents in the aftermath of Thursday’s announcement giving the thumbs-up to the new Casement Park.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan gave the new £77 million, 38,000-seater stadium the green light when granting full planning permission to the project.

Work on the new stadium will begin in April and will be complete by the start of the 2016 Ulster Championship.

West Belfast MP Paul Maskey warmly welcomed the announcement but promised to continue to work with local residents who have been left angered by the decision to give approval to the project in its current form.

“These are welcome announcements that will help regenerate West Belfast and create employment in the area,” said Mr Maskey. “It is another important step in the stadia projects brought forward by the Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister Carál Ní Chuilín.

“The construction of a 38,000 capacity state-of-the-art stadium on the Casement Park site will be a huge boost for the GAA in the city and County Antrim and will bring longer term and wider economic benefits to an area in much need of investment. This area has suffered from years of under-investment and neglect.”

However, concerns remain about the height of the stadium and its impact on homes in Moreland and Owenvarragh Avenues.

“Sinn Féin have met with residents over the past number of years to hear their concerns and have facilitated meetings between them and the GAA and DCAL. We have also raised those residents’ concerns with both the GAA and DCAL,” said Mr Maskey.

“Over the coming period, as the building work gets under way, residents’ concerns need to be taken on board and dealt with in a sensitive manner. People throughout greater West Belfast and the city as a whole have bought into this project. The new Casement Park will be an excellent stadium where we can display and enjoy all that is best in our native games for decades to come.”

SDLP West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood, who had the Casement project on his desk as Environment Minister until he was replaced by party colleague Mark H Durkan earlier this year, expressed his support for the residents who object to the new stadium.

“I want first to applaud the residents of Moreland, Owenvarragh and surrounding areas,” said Mr Attwood.

“They have supported the principle of the development of Casement Park but have always said it should be done properly. The issues and concerns that they have raised have been legitimate. That is why the SDLP in West Belfast, and Councillor Tim Attwood in particular, have worked with the residents so their concerns could be fully heard, even if not fully heeded by everyone. The GAA makes an immense contribution to culture, sports and community. Even in the last days I have met people from the GAA who have the best of intentions and ambitions for their organisation and for West Belfast.

“Much of the power in relation to the Casement project lay with the GAA. They had a very high responsibility to engage properly with the residents, fully acknowledge their concerns and respond to them. The GAA know that I am disappointed that this has not always been the case. 
“Relationships have been damaged and questions have not been fully answered by the GAA. I find this a matter of regret.

“West Belfast needs jobs, sustainable development and iconic projects. The decision by the Minister of the Environment is one that I know has been taken with care and diligence, informed both by the opportunities the scheme presents and the concerns that have been raised. This was not a straightforward matter for the Minister, in my view. He has worked hard to hear concerns.

“Councillor Tim Attwood and I will continue to work with the residents to ensure that their needs are always at the front of the thinking of all, particularly of the GAA. The decision today will have to be closely examined and in that regard I will continue to meet with the residents and the GAA.”


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