Antrim Senior Football Captain Peter Healy has welcomed the news that Casement Park’s long-awaited redevelopment can proceed.
Yesterday a High Court judge dismissed an appeal against former Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon’s decision to grant planning permission for the redevelopment of GAA Stadium in West Belfast.
A judicial review process has been launched by the Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association (MORA) after Ms Mallon announced her approval for a new £110million, 34,000 capacity stadium in July last year.
Continue reading:Lawsuit against 34,000-seat GAA stadium in Casement Park dismissed
While there remains uncertainty over a lack of funding for the project, Healy remains confident he will be performing for Antrim at the new Casement Park.
“This is great news and hopefully things can finally move forward,” Healy said.
“It’s been eight or nine years in the works now. I was lucky enough to play in U12 and U16 finals a couple of times there.
“Hopefully they can get it built as soon as possible. I have to stay a while longer to get a chance to record it.
“I’m 25 now. I’m not sure what the time frame is, but I’d like to see myself playing in it for a couple of years.
“Unfortunately there will be players who will go through their entire inter-county career at Antrim without having played at Casement.
“It will be great to see it finally being built and it will be great to have a world-class facility in the heart of Belfast, Ireland’s second largest city.
“Antrim has been waiting for that lift to come from Casement and hopefully it’s coming for the footballers, the slingshots, the women’s footballers and the Camogs.”
The only major hurdle that still needs to be overcome is financing the renovation.
Under the original funding model, the NI executive was expected to invest £62.5m, with the GAA contributing £15m.
In the meantime, costs have skyrocketed and the estimate for the project is now around £110m, some £32.5m more than original estimates.
Nonetheless, the new stadium would give the Andersonstown area a huge economic boost as Ulster GAA is likely to move the Clones senior football final to the new Casement Park.
Healy said concerns about the feasibility of hosting the provincial decision in West Belfast were unfounded.
“Ulster needs a modern, fit for purpose stadium to host the Ulster final,” added the St Enda’s clubman.
“It’s a hot topic at the moment in relation to Clones and his suitability for an Ulster final.
“There are also concerns about Belfast. You just have to look at Croke Park – it’s built in a big city in a residential area and there aren’t many problems.
“Belfast and Casement Park can be an excellent place to host the Ulster final.
“Hopefully Antrim can push to be there in the years to come.”
In a statement, Ulster Council warmly welcomed the verdict.
“Today’s ruling by Mr Justice Humphreys is truly significant for the Gaels of Antrim and Ulster and the GAA at the national level, who have dismissed the legal challenge to the granting of planning permission for Casement Park. The decision was clear, unequivocal and emphatic,” the statement said.
“We can now finally schedule the delivery of our provincial stadium and the last remaining project under the NI leadership’s regional sports stadium program.
“We recognize 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 transformative sporting, cultural and economic benefits of this legendary stadium can finally be realised.
“We thank the Gaels and West Belfast community for their overwhelming support and voice throughout this process.
“For those opposed to the project, we want to reassure you that we will be good neighbors and will work closely with everyone during construction and during operations to bring positive benefits to the entire community.”
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