The GAA has an impeccable health and safety record and this is something we will never compromise upon.
We have developed, invested in and manage over 2,000 physical assets in Ireland including a large number of major Provincial and County Stadiums built to the highest specifications conforming with all of the relevant health and safety legislation in two jurisdictions. As Ireland’s largest sporting organisation, the GAA hosted well over 1,000,000 people throughout its 2014 Championship fixtures including crowds in excess of 80,000 for major games. The Ulster Championship which is due to get underway again this weekend saw over 136,000 fans attend our games last year with a full capacity attendance of over 31,500 at St. Tiernach’s Park Clones for the Ulster GAA football final in July. The safety of all members and fans is paramount for the GAA, and this is borne out through our longstanding and exemplary safety record.
It is for this reason that we are dismayed at, and categorically reject, any assertion that our fans would ever be put at risk at any of our games or within any of our stadia. This, put simply, has not and never will happen. Ulster GAA works on a daily basis in a spirit of partnership with Governments North and South, the PSNI, the Garda and a wide range of emergency services in a pro-active, positive approach to ensure that all our games are enjoyed in a safe, secure environment.
The GAA does not compromise on safety. With the development of a stadium such as Casement Park there are two important but decidedly independent processes, the planning application and the safety certificate process. The detail of the planning submission from the GAA included inputs from the Safety Technical Group (STG), that included an ‘in principle’ agreement with the GAA’s proposals prior to the submission. The GAA alongside our consultancy and contractor teams worked with STG to further develop a more detailed design and further operational requirements as part of the safety process to obtain a safety certificate for the new Stadium. This is a lengthy process with the final approval usually not granted until weeks before the Stadium being opened. The planning process and safety process are two separate regulatory regimes that remain separate throughout the development process but do naturally run in parallel with each other.
Recent reports of the work of the Provincial Project’s STG have not accurately reflected the GAA’s involvement nor genuine contributions to an evolving and incomplete process which rigorously examined all of the safety issues throughout the design process and paused in September 2014 to await the outcome of the Judicial Review. It should be noted that Justice Sir Mark Horner in his judgement stated that the STG process was, and is, completely separate from the planning process.
As regards the many different stakeholders and statutory authorities that were involved in this process, we utterly refute any allegations that we pressurised any individuals or organisations during our work with the STG. In the coming weeks the GAA will launch its new application for Ulster’s Provincial Stadium Project at Casement Park. At this time we will outline our plans for local engagement and we will work continue to work constructively and pro-actively with all relevant stakeholders to ensure, as we have always done, that the emerging plans for the stadium meet the highest standards of the Red and Green Guides for Safety in Sports Grounds. As the safety certificate process is a separate regulatory regime to the planning process, operated under the management and control of Belfast City Council, the GAA also looks forward to working with elected representatives and officials in achieving a fully compliant and valid Safety Certificate when the construction of the new stadium is complete.
Community is at the heart of our Association. We are committed to growing and developing participation for everyone and providing our members and fans with great facilities and we remain committed to providing, our provincial capital, Belfast with a new provincial GAA stadium.
Jim Murray, Chairman Antrim GAA
Tom Daly, Chairman Casement Park Project Board
Danny Murphy, CEO Ulster GAA and Vice Chairman Casement Park Project Board
Paraic Duffy, Director General GAA