SF Slams Minister As Maze Stadium Plans Axed

Gregory Campbell has hammered the 'final nail in the coffin' of a much-mooted Maze Sports Stadium. In a move already criticised by Sinn Féin, the NI Sports Minister has decided to drop the plans, following months of uncertainty and political wrangling.

Mr Campbell said yesterday that he will seek an alternative way forward for Northern Ireland football, rugby and Gaelic games, and pledged to help develop solutions to each sport's individual needs.

The Minister is expected to grant Windsor Park in south Belfast the funding to improve the stadium's facilities.

This will enable the Linfield ground to stage international events until a long-term option is agreed, the BBC has reported.

Officials are said to be in talks with Linfield FC and the IFA to organise limited remedial works at the grounds.

The Minister hinted that his department would also release cash to upgrade other grounds in the province.

Mr Campbell reaffirmed the importance of dealing with the three local sports even-handedly.

He is said to be still looking at the possibility of a new stadium, either on a single or shared sport basis.

Mr Campbell, explaining his decision in an Executive paper, told Stormont colleagues of the insufficient political consensus on a Maze development.

He said a net loss to the economy of between £156m and £193m did not compensate for the non-monetary benefits which may flow from a shared stadium.

Mr Campbell said he remains interested in proposals developed by Belfast City Council to build a city centre stadium.

Meanwhile, the Minister's decision has already come in for criticism. Commenting yesterday, Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff, who chairs the Assembly Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee, said this will have far reaching ramifications for local sporting bodies and for the construction industry.

He said the Long Kesh stadium issue had become embroiled in an internal DUP row between Mr Campbell and other senior colleagues to the detriment of both sport and the local construction industry who would have benefited from this plan.

"This is not a surprise coming from Minister Gregory Campbell who lacks vision or an alternative way forward.

"The main thing to say of course is that this is a paper which must now go before the Executive and I believe he should require agreement for the reprioritising of any substantial resources within his department.

"Clearly for sometime this issue has become embroiled in an internal DUP row between Minister Campbell and other senior colleagues," he said.

"Due to their inability to agree amongst themselves it seems Minister Campbell believes this is the easiest way to proceed - despite the impact on both sport and local construction industry and long term employment through service provision at any such stadium."

See: Minister Allays Maze Confusion Over Ravenhill Upgrade

See: Maze Stadium Plans 'Deferred' For Four Years

See: European Parliament Could Assist Maze Development

See: Alliance MLA Attacks 'Unacceptable' Delays On Maze Decision

See: Poots Still 'Optimistic' About Maze Stadium

See: Maze Stadium To Be Dropped?

See: 'Release Stadium Buildings Jobs', Says Sinn Fein

See: Maze Talks Renew At Stormont

See: Maze Stadium Confusion Continues

See: Minister's Maze Verdict Due In Weeks


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