The leaders of the five largest political parties in Northern Ireland sent a statement supporting the use of a rebuilt Casement Park in the UK and Ireland Euro 2028 bid.
The statement said the proposed new stadium was an Executive commitment which would be a “world class, state of the art” facility.
The Gaelic sports stadium in Belfast is part of the joint bid to host Euro 2028 along with nine other grounds from across the UK and Ireland.
However, the site is currently derelict and plans by the GAA to redevelop it with a 34,000 capacity have been mired in controversy and hit by delays.
The statement, seen by the PA news agency, was submitted as part of the bid.
It was sent by Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long, Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie and Colum Eastwood, leader of the SDLP.
The statement said that “the main Northern Ireland political party leaders, fully support the historic and world class partnership bid to host the greatest ever UEFA European Football Championship in these islands”.
It continued: “As part of the Stadia Development Programme, Casement Park in Belfast is a Northern Ireland Executive Programme for Government commitment for a world class, state of the art stadium in which to host players, fans and the entire UEFA family for an inclusive and unforgettable celebration of football.
“The Northern Ireland Executive Sub-Regional Football Stadia Programme will also contribute to innovative football stadia and facilities for use during the tournament that will drive a legacy of increased football participation, sustainability and social and economic benefits for all now and in the future.”
The statement concluded: “We therefore confirm our support for the pioneering UK and Ireland partnership bid to host the greatest ever UEFA European Football Championship in these islands and deliver Football for All, Football for Good and Football for the Future.”
The Casement project has been been delayed by a series of legal challenges and is further complicated by the lack of a functioning Executive at Stormont.
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 have spiralled 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 Northern Ireland football team play at the National Stadium at Windsor Park in Belfast. However that stadium has a capacity of 18,500 – significantly short of the 30,000 minimum required for hosting games at the Euros.
The GAA has granted permission for Casement Park to be included as part of the bid which is also supported by the Irish Football Association (IFA).
Content provided by Radio NewsHub. Originally published on 2023-04-14 14:00:00.