THE chairperson of a North Belfast GAA club has welcomed news that planning permission has been submitted to develop four new GAA pitches in the area.

Currently, there is no dedicated GAA pitch in North Belfast. Gaelic games are played at Cliftonville Playing Fields which is a multi-use facility. Now plans have been submitted for four full-size GAA pitches and facilities at Mallusk Playing Fields.

Stephen McCourt, ​Chairperson of Wolfe Tones GAC said it is the first step in addressing the demand.

“I would like to welcome the news that Belfast City Council will undertake a new, comprehensive infrastructure development that will benefit Gaelic games in North Belfast and Newtownabbey," he said.

"While this is undoubtedly a positive development, it must be framed as the first step of a much larger process to deliver equality for North Belfast Gaels.

"After a historical deficit, developments like this will help alleviate massive pitch pressure but one eye must be kept on the future and Belfast City Council must commit to further pitch development in North Belfast itself. Ardoyne, Pearses and Wolfe Tones exerted significant time and effort on lobbying and advocacy around pitch provision and all of those clubs can legitimately claim that this Mallusk development would not be happening if they didn’t force it on the agenda. 

"The next step in this process for Wolfe Tones is to pursue a management agreement for permanent access to one of the Mallusk pitches. We are further calling on the GAA Joint Management Committee to engage in productive dialogue to develop a pragmatic solution to this and ensure the only club in Antrim without semi-permanent access to a facility is provided with the opportunity to further its growth and development”. 

Sinn Féin North Belfast Westminster candidate John Finucane said: “I am delighted that significant progress is being made to develop more GAA facilities across North Belfast.

“News that planning permission has been submitted to create four full-size GAA pitches and facilities at North Mallusk Playing Fields is fantastic news for sport in this area.

“We will continue to work together with others to deliver first-class facilities for all sports across North Belfast.”

SDLP Westminster candidate councillor Carl Whyte added: “I have engaged with local GAA clubs and council over the past year to see new GAA facilities established in North Belfast and I am delighted that new additional pitches will be in place at Mallusk.

"These new pitches will go some way to addressing the demand in this area but there is a lot more to do, including the creation of new additional GAA pitches in both the Belfast City Council district and wider North Belfast constituency.

“The council has also stated that the pitches strategy will not be ready until March 2025 – this is too long a delay and I along with others will work with council staff to make sure this process is concluded in a more timely manner.

"The growth of Gaelic games in the city has been exponential in recent years and the level of facilities provision must meet this increased demand.”

Work on the pitches at Mallusk Playing Fields is due to be completed by February 2025.