Labour could rescue Casement Park - O'Neill

Michelle O'Neill

Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill has said an incoming Labour government in the UK could save the Casement Park redevelopment project in west Belfast.

Ms O’Neill expects a Labour government to be elected next week, following the general election on 4 July.

She said that on “day one” she would ask the new administration to find money to help redevelop Casement Park.

Unless funding to rebuild the stadium can be found quickly, Northern Ireland will miss the chance to host football matches in the Euro 2028 tournament.

The site in west Belfast is currently derelict, and the new stadium needs to be ready by summer 2027 at the latest.

It could cost up to £300m.

Ms O’Neill says an incoming Labour government could rescue the project.

Speaking on BBC's The View programme, she said: “We now need the commitment of the British government. So on the other side of this election, I expect that Labour need to come to the table and let’s find a solution to make sure we get Casement Park built.

“We’re already engaging with Labour. Labour know that we are coming on day one to ask for this project to be built," she added.

“There’s an opportunity for a reset of relations between Dublin and London and I think there is where we are going to find the solution.

"This is an all-island project in terms of the Euro bid itself. Let’s make it happen.”

She insisted that if the deadline for Euro 2028 was missed, the stadium would still be built for its main purpose as a GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) venue.

She said that the power-sharing executive at Stormont had a long-standing commitment to the project.

With money pledged by Stormont, the GAA and the Irish government, she said what was missing was a contribution from the UK government.

'Fledgling executive'

Ms O'Neill, who is first minister at Stormont, defended the record of the power-sharing executive since its return earlier this year.

"I'm actually really delighted by the work of the executive over the past four months. We're only in the door. It's a fledgling executive and we are determined to fix things."

When she was elected to the position at Stormont, she promised to be a "First Minister for all".

Asked if while First Minister she would not attend any IRA commemorations, she said: "I've always said I'll be very conscious of the office that I hold."

"I'm also equally very conscious of the fact that everybody has got a right to remember their dead," she added.

When pressed again on the issue, she declined to be more specific about her possible attendance at IRA commemorations.

Sinn Féin is standing candidates in 14 of the 18 constituencies in Northern Ireland in the general election.

The party is not contesting Belfast East, Belfast South and Mid Down, Lagan Valley and North Down.

In next week’s election, more than 130 candidates are running across the 18 Westminster constituencies in Northern Ireland.

Counting of the votes will take place overnight at three centres following the close of polling stations.

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