O’Neill says Casement Park will be built on her watch – Sport

Jonathan McCambridge, PA

Casement Park will be built “on my watch”, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said.

Ms O’Neill made the comments as she addressed a major gathering on Irish unification in Belfast on Saturday.

More than 2,000 people attended Ireland’s Future Pathway to Change event at the SSE Arena.

Ms O’Neill referred to the ongoing uncertainty over funding for the reconstruction of Casement Park in west Belfast.

Mary Lou McDonald, president of Sinn Fein, sits with former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams
Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald with former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams (Brian Lawless/PA)

The abandoned site is intended as a location for five Euro 2028 matches.

However, the funding needed to build the stadium in time for the tournament is still not in place and there are concerns that the delays could see Belfast miss out on a tournament jointly hosted by Ireland and Great Britain.

Ms O’Neill said: “Casement Park will be built under my supervision.”

She also said she had a positive relationship with the North’s Deputy First Minister, Emma Little-Pengelly of the DUP.

Ms O’Neill added: “We have common ground, the common ground is prosperity for all.

“Our common ground is trying to build our community.”

She said Westminster had shown it would never serve the interests of the people of Northern Ireland, demonstrating the need for constitutional change.

Eleven political parties from across the island will participate in the event on Saturday.

Former taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald will also speak at the event, while former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams will also attend.

DUP founder Wallace Thompson speaks at the Ireland's Future event
DUP founder Wallace Thompson speaks at Ireland’s Future event (Brian Lawless/PA)

Opening the event, Senator Frances Black, Chair of Ireland’s Future, said: “There is no denying that change is coming.”

Nuala McAllister of the Alliance Party took part in a panel discussion after party leader Naomi Long withdrew.

Ms McAllister said the priority for her party is to reform power-sharing institutions in Stormont.

She said: “We don’t want to create a divide here where we become radicalized on both sides.”

DUP founder Wallace Thompson and loyalist paramilitary David Adams will also take part in a panel discussion called The Protestant Perspective.

The stated aim of Ireland’s Future is to promote debate and discussion about what a united Ireland would look like, and is campaigning for a referendum on reunification.

The group says Brexit has given new impetus to constitutional changes, with more people seeing unification as a way to soften the impact of Britain’s departure from the EU.