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Sinn Fein barracked in west Belfast over Casement plans

Ann Marie Hughes points the finger as residents protest against the scale of the rebuilding scheme at Casement Park.

Ann Marie Hughes points the finger as residents protest against the scale of the rebuilding scheme at Casement Park.

Sinn Fein’s Caral Ni Chuilin was one of the targets for a protest by west Belfast residents against a sports stadium redevelopment.

The culture minister was visiting Casement Park alongside SDLP planning minister Mark H Durkan, to give a press conference announcing that planning permission and funding for the new GAA stadium had been secured.

But a string of protestors were seen to wander across the pitch, heckling the ministers and their entourages, and holding signs calling for respect to be shown for residents.

They were unhappy about the scale of the development and its impact on the area.

The stadium stands on the Andersonstown Road, a republican heartland, and one of the protestors shouted: “When youse want your votes don’t come round our area – I’d vote for the DUP quicker.”

The multi-million pound redevelopment will see it demolished and rebuilt as a new 38,000-capacity venue.

Close to 1,000 residents in the area had objected to the proposed redevelopment – which is being bankrolled by Stormont, along with redevelopments to Windsor Park and Ravenhill.

There had also been a petition of support with 1,001 signatures, as well as letters backing the plans.

Afterwards Minister Durkan, whose department gave the green light for work to begin yesterday, told the BBC he had “a degree of sympathy with the residents”, but added: “I have to weigh that up against the benefits, the undoubted benefits, that this statement will bring.”

Tom Daly from Ulster GAA said that the organisation been “very open and transparent” about what he called a “fantastic development”.

In a statement hailing the decision to proceed, Caral Ni Chuilin said: “Not only is this a tremendous boost for the GAA in Ulster, the redevelopment of Casement will bring many benefits to the community in west Belfast through construction jobs and a catalyst for regeneration in the area around the stadium.”

Other politicians from the SDLP and Sinn Fein weighed in to support the move, while a group called People Before Profit denounced the scheme as a “vanity project”.

 

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