DEPUTY First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly has refused to commit to raising funding for the redeveloped Casement Park with the British Government.

During Assembly questions, South Belfast SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole asked deputy First Minister Little-Pengelly whether she and First Minister Michelle O’Neill had raised the question of funding for Casement’s construction in meetings with the UK Government, and whether they would do so in the future. 

In response, Ms Little-Pengelly said Stormont needs a budget from the British government for "a range of issues" and did not mention Casement Park.

"The Member will be aware that we have been pressing the UK Government on a range of issues pertaining to the Budget," she said.

"The Northern Ireland Budget is incredibly difficult. We know its impact, not least on our health system and on waiting lists, and the associated pressures that it causes.

"We also know the pressures on our education system. This is not a single-issue issue but an issue to do with core public services that people need, such as health, education, roads and investment.

"Organisations are crying out for funding, and I have certainly not been behind the door in making strong representations to the UK Government.

"We are prepared to step up and do transformation, but we also need a Budget from the UK Government that will enable us to do that in order to deliver core public services that will impact positively on everyone throughout Northern Ireland."

Speaking after, Matthew O’Toole said he was disappointed with the response from the Deputy First Minister.
“In just four days, Euro 2024 gets underway in Munich. In four short years, Euro 2028 will kick-off. There is a golden opportunity for Belfast and Northern Ireland to be a host city, bringing our city to a world audience and delivering more than £100 million in anticipated benefits – but construction needs to start as soon as possible and the First Ministers need to lead on securing necessary funding.
“Casement Park is supposed to be an Executive priority but as yet we have seen only dither from the Executive and stalling from the Communities Minister, who says he needs funding commitments from the UK Government. But for all the East-West engagement she and the First Minister engage in, there is no sign that the top of the Executive is collectively pressing the UK Government for the necessary cash.

“I was deeply disappointed today to hear the deputy First Minister refuse to even countenance raising it as an ask from the incoming UK Government – which begs the question of what the First Minister has been doing on the subject all this time.”