THE Irish government has pledged €50 million for the redevelopment of Casement Park in Belfast.

The Cabinet met in Dublin on Tuesday morning to sign-off on several cross-border projects including an hourly rail service between Belfast and Dublin (€12.5 million); the A5 road linking Donegal to Dublin through Derry and Tyrone (€600 million); and the Narrow Water Bridge over Carlingford Lough between counties Down and Louth. In all, the Irish government has committed almost €1billion.

Casement Park is one of the host venues for the Euro 2028 soccer tournament.

Making the announcement, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “At approximately €1 billion, it is the largest ever package of Government funding for cross-border investments.

"The redevelopment of Casement Park stadium in Belfast will help maximise the benefit for Northern Ireland of hosting games in the UEFA EURO2028 championship which is a major East-West project. 

“This funding is about all-island investment, boosting the all-island economy and improving connections North and South, benefiting both jurisdictions and all communities. It is about understanding that, whatever the constitutional future of Ireland brings, investing in people, in quality of life, in opportunity, and for the generations to come, are all of our responsibilities and a common good we can best progress by working together.”

The Department for Communities (DfC) is leading the procurement of the main construction contract for Casement Park. After today's announcement in Dublin, DUP Communities Minister Gordon Lyons was asked in the Stormont chamber by SDLP MLA Justin McNulty if he would attend the 2027 Ulster GAA final at newly-built Casement Park.

“There are a number of issues before we get to that stage," he said. “There are still outstanding of issues in terms of the quantum of funding that will be required and made available which are outstanding issues for the Department and we look forward to hearing about that in due course.”

Speaking after the announcement, West Belfast MP Paul Maskey said: “I welcome the announcement from the Irish Government that they will contribute a significant sum of money towards the redevelopment of Casement Park.

“Alongside work to prepare the site beginning yesterday, this is another positive step to ensuring we have a first-class, state-of-the-art sporting facility for Ulster Gaels, and to host major games in the Euros and big events. 

“The construction of Casement Park will help to strengthen our local economy, create jobs, and showcase everything that makes our island and people amazing through the power of sport. 

“Both Governments, the Executive, the GAA and Football Associations must continue working together to ensure this flagship project is delivered quickly and on time.”

SDLP councillor for the area, Paul Doherty said: “Seeing Casement delivered is a win for everyone involved. It will bring one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world to Belfast, provide a quality stadium and sporting legacy that will last for decades and create opportunity for people living in this area. Today’s announcement is an important step and we need to see full funding being secured in the near future.”

Commenting Tom Daly, Ulster GAA Stadium Board Chairperson said: “We have been working closely with the Taoiseach’s office to bring the Irish Government on board to contribute to the Ulster GAA’s overall partnership funding package for the stadium which reflects its ambition to foster long lasting sporting, cultural and economic opportunities in the province. Throughout the process the Taoiseach and all of Government have been steadfast and consistent in their support for, and commitment to, helping Ulster GAA deliver a modern fit for purpose GAA stadium for the whole community.

“We also recognise that this will contribute significantly to both North South and East West relationships," he added.

The funding for the A5 and the Narrow Water Bridge projects delivers on a long-standing commitment by the Irish Government.

The Government has already allocated almost €250m from the Shared Island Fund, including €44.5m for construction of a new teaching building at Ulster University in Derry and €47m to move forward with the Ulster Canal restoration.