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Casement Park safety review calls for whistleblower to be replaced

Published 07/08/2015

Experts expect Casement Park to be expanded into a 38,000 seater stadium
Experts expect Casement Park to be expanded into a 38,000 seater stadium

A high-powered review of safety at the proposed Casement Park stadium has called for a whistleblower who raised concerns to be replaced.

Relationships have been broken and trust is lacking, according to a technical investigation led by the Cabinet Office, and an independent mediator is needed to salvage relationships.

Paul Scott, chairman of the Safety Technical Group, has raised the prospect of another Hillsborough-style tragedy and said spectators would not be able to exit quickly enough from a new flagship Gaelic Athletic Association ground in Belfast.

A rethink was ordered by Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin and it could be a year or more before a revised planning application is lodged.

The report said: "The project cannot make progress unless these relationships can be reset - this is the crucial first step the project needs to take."

Experts envisaged an expanded 38,000 seater venue costing around £76 million.

Planning permission was overturned in December following a judicial review brought by a local residents' group. Serious concerns were also raised about how emergency exiting will work in the new design.

Mr Scott who claimed he was bullied by a Stormont department, took a grievance case against his boss at Sport NI over the way his complaints were handled.

He claimed the stadium could not be evacuated quickly enough in an emergency and that attempts were made to bully him into changing his mind.

Ms Ni Chuilin ordered the Project Assessment Review (PAR) in response to the claims. Separate appraisals of personnel issues are ongoing.

The review said: "An independent person should be appointed to chair the Safety Technical Group.

"The skill set needed by this individual is mediation and facilitation, rather than technical knowledge."

Ms Ni Chuilin said the report showed her approach had been open, transparent and professional.

"The PAR team have identified the need for a full-time senior responsible owner for the remainder of the project, and having someone to give their undivided attention to this programme is crucial as we move forward, given the varied range of issues that need to be addressed."

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