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Opposition to stadium getting a lot more vocal

Residents fear they’ll be left in Casement dark

Mooreland Park residents are concerned about shadows in their gardens Mooreland Park residents are concerned about shadows in their gardens
By Ciara Quinn

MEMBERS of the Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents’ Association (MORA) have accused the GAA of continually “ignoring” their concerns in relation to the redevelopment of Casement Park.

A number of residents told the Andersonstown News that they have got to the stage where they feel “helpless” in the face of the planned redevelopment which they fear will go ahead despite their protestations.

The huge £65 million redevelopment project is due for completion in 2015. But some residents from Mooreland and Owenvarragh say the new stadium will destroy the quality of life of those who have lived in the area for over fifty years.

Residents say that one major issue that has not been solved is the height the new 40,000 all-seater stadium is going to be.

“We have been in talks with the GAA to ask them to sink the stadium into the ground so that it would not exceed the height of the existing stand,” explained MORA member Seamus Fitzsimons. “We were originally told that there was to be a bowl-type stadium built so that any structure wouldn’t impinge on residents’ back gardens. The GAA have turned round and said because of money reasons they can no longer do that, that they would need at least £11 million to cover that cost. The GAA made £50 million last year as an organisation, so why can’t they borrow off that? That’s one option and they still won’t move on it. There has been no official response to our concerns,” he added.

Frustrated Mooreland Park resident Paddy Campbell has lived in the area for more than 25 years. He said the GAA had given assurances that none of the new stands would be bigger than the existing ones. “That was a lie,” he now says firmly. “The new stadium is going to impinge greatly on the quality of life for residents.  The GAA are destroying our homes, our gardens. We are going to have to look into our gardens at a huge ugly wall which is going to block out the afternoon and evening sunlight. Many of us bought our homes over 25 year ago for the gardens. When this development gets under way are we to be faced with no natural sunlight? We need sunlight to dry our gardens, there will be no green grass here.

“In the height of summer, you are talking June, July and August, the sun goes down around 10.30pm. With the higher stadium we are looking at over seven hours in grey before going into darkness.”

MORA members told the Andersonstown News that the last two meetings held in relation to the redevelopment were not in the immediate area but in the Cultúrlann on the Falls and in the Wellington Park Hotel in South Belfast. They said a large number of the residents from Owenvarragh and Mooreland are elderly and couldn’t make it as far as that.

“This is not just about Andersonstown any more,” added Paddy, “this is about North and South Belfast now. There are proposals to close the Andersonstown Road on match days which is just madness.

“The amount of traffic that comes on to the road every day is big as it is, people sitting in the Whiterock, Lisburn Road, Twinbrook and Poleglass don’t know what’s coming here or how it is going to affect them when this eyesore goes up.

“Why should I have the GAA dictate to me when I can’t and can get out of my house? That’s why we wanted to contact the Andersonstown News, to let the people of this community, the whole of it, from Turf Lodge to the Malone Road, know that this development will affect them. They [the GAA] are not taking us on board at all. We need our voices to be heard now as time is running out.”

Paddy’s daughter Victoria compared the GAA’s redevelopment plans for Casement to “putting something the size of the Odyssey in a heavily built-up residential area”. She added: “It is a fantastic idea on paper but it is just not possible  without wrecking our lives. Why not upgrade what is there now?

“The GAA have lied to us in terms of how high the stadium is going to be. We have attended meetings but we aren’t being listened to. The time for pleasantries is long gone.”

The consultation period ends as of this month and MORA says the attitude of the GAA is basically “take it or leave it”.

During last weekend’s local door-to-door visits by representatives from the Casement Park project team, Nora Cairns said she let the GAA representatives into her home “and let them speak for 20 minutes before I voiced my opposition to the planned proposal”.

Nora continued: “I said could I ask them one question – if your mother, your grandmother or your wife lived here and this was going to happen to them, what would you say, would you be happy? I was met with stunned silence, which says it all really.”

MORA residents were agreed that the freedom of residents to enjoy their homes in peace and comfort and the drop in value of  their properties “clearly does not concern the GAA”.

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