Row over Casement Park as Euro 2028 venue continues with DUP branding Sinn Fein 'petty'

A computer generated image of how Casement Park will look after the redevelopment. Photo: Ulster GAAA computer generated image of how Casement Park will look after the redevelopment. Photo: Ulster GAA
A computer generated image of how Casement Park will look after the redevelopment. Photo: Ulster GAA
A row over Casement Park has continued with the DUP hitting out at Sinn Fein for ‘misnaming’ the official bid to host Euro 2028.

With Turkey pulling out of the contest to host the tournament earlier this week, it is expected the Uefa will ratify the sole remaining bid from the ‘United Kingdom and Ireland’ when its executive committee meets on Tuesday.

Despite having been derelict for a number of years, Casement Park has been named as one of ten venues across the British Isles – along with Wembley, Hampden Park and the Aviva in Dublin – in the bid.

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Earlier this year, the GAA said the total cost of the project had risen to between “£112m and £140m – not including VAT,” up from an estimated £77.5m at the outset.

Casement Park is currently derelict. Photo: PacemakerCasement Park is currently derelict. Photo: Pacemaker
Casement Park is currently derelict. Photo: Pacemaker

The GAA also said it is not prepared to increase its contribution to more than the originally agreed £15 million.

Welcoming the news that Turkey had withdrawn its interest in hosting the 2028 tournament, leading Sinn Fein figures referred to the UK and Ireland proposal as the “Ireland and Britain” bid.

In a social media message, Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill said: “I am absolutely delighted that Casement Park looks set to host Euro 2028 Championship games as the joint bid between Ireland and Britain is to go unopposed. This is an opportunity of a lifetime."

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Her party colleague and North Belfast MP John Finucane tweeted: “Ireland & Britain’s preliminary bid to host #Euro2028 looks set to be confirmed next week. The potential of having teams & visitors from across Europe in a newly built Casement Park is unmatched.”

Baroness Kate Hoey responded to Ms O’Neill’s message, saying: “If as First Minister you don’t even know that it is a UK bid with Ireland then you have been badly briefed. Also in case you forgot Northern Ireland is part of the UK.”

On Friday, DUP North Belfast MLA Phillip Brett has said that whilst most news reports were focussed on the cost of the Casement Park rebuild, “few noted the self-proclaimed ‘First Minister for all’ and the Sinn Fein North Belfast absentee MP John Finucane opting to rename the bid from being the ‘UK and Ireland’ to ‘Ireland and Britain’”.

Mr Brett said: “John Finucane and Michelle O’Neill, in two tweets, reminded people that they don’t even recognise the constitutional reality of Northern Ireland being part of the United Kingdom. They want to be part of the ‘Northern Ireland Executive’ but can barely utter the words ‘Northern Ireland’.

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“It is petty in the extreme to rename the bid. Britain means Scotland, England and Wales. The joint bid was by the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Michelle O’Neill and John Finucane demonstrated that the announcement was as much about politics as sport for Sinn Fein.”

In May this year, the NI Secretary, Chris Heaton-Harris, said “don’t you worry, we’ll get the money,” when asked how the Casement Park shortfall was being funded.

Commenting on the spiralling cost of the rebuild project in the Dail on Thursday, Irish premier Leo Varadkar said: "We're in discussions with the Ulster GAA council, and also the British government as to how we can make a contribution to building that new stadium - and I believe we should."