Rebuilding Casement Park as Euros venue would be ‘huge opportunity’ – O’Neill

First Minister Michelle O’Neill has expressed the importance of getting a new stadium built at Casement Park for the Euros as diggers moved onto the site.

The derelict GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) ground in west Belfast has been earmarked as a venue for the Euro 2028 football tournament.

However, uncertainty remains over the funding for it following reports that suggested it could cost £308 million.

In 2011, the Stormont Executive committed £62.5 million to the project.

Casement Park GAA stadium
Contractors with excavators have begun clearing the concrete terraces at the ground in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Last month, the Irish Government offered £40 million towards it, and the GAA has said it will contribute £15 million.

The UK Government reportedly has reservations around plugging the remaining funding gap.

Work was underway on Thursday to clear the concrete terracing.

Speaking during a joint visit to Washington DC with deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly, Ms O’Neill described having a Euro venue in Northern Ireland as a “huge opportunity”, describing sport as “something that unites us all”.

Northern Ireland politicians visit the US
Michelle O’Neill, right, and Emma Little-Pengelly attend the Northern Ireland Bureau breakfast in Washington DC (Niall Carson/PA)

Asked were they seeking potential investors for the project during the US visit, Ms O’Neill said: “Obviously, Casement is something that I want to see delivered, I think it’s so so important that we get that project, the stadia built particularly given its role within the wider Euro bid.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us and sport should be something that unites us all in our society, and it’s about building first class facilities for across all sporting codes, so I am determined to see Casement built, but this week is about investment, it’s about drumming up trade, it’s about telling people we’re open for business and it’s about encouraging those investors to come to our part of the world because we have something really strong to offer.”

Ms Little-Pengelly added: “These discussions are very much about foreign direct investment, of course, so that is about looking at our sectors and our industry, that is around things like cyber security, fintech, advanced manufacturing, those incredible growth industries that create many many thousands of jobs.

“When companies invest in Northern Ireland, they reinvest in Northern Ireland. That’s a really positive indication about how great it is to set up business in Northern Ireland and, of course, other matters will be for the Executive to discuss in due course.

“But our message here today is very, very clear, this is about Northern Ireland being open for business and seeking that investment.”