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GAA stadium inquiry urged amid questions over the official handling of safety concerns

By David Young

Published 14/05/2015

It’s back to the drawing board now for Ulster GAA as they look to improve the stadium
It’s back to the drawing board now for Ulster GAA as they look to improve the stadium
No compromise on safety: Caral Ni Chuilin

Pressure is mounting on Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin over what she knew - and when - about safety concerns overshadowing the design of the troubled Casement Park GAA stadium project.

Both the leader of the UUP Mike Nesbitt and DUP MLA Nelson McCausland, the chairman of the powerful Assembly Committee on Culture, Arts and Leisure - which oversees the work of Ms Ni Chuilin's department - have now called for a formal inquiry into the project.

The Stormont committee meets today to review a mass of documents and emails supplied to it by Sport NI safety expert Paul Scott. He has claimed he was bullied for raising concerns about the safety of the Casement Park stadium designs.

Mr McCausland said that his committee now had evidence that points to an attempt to push ahead with the Casement Park project - ignoring Mr Scott's advice.

He said: "Paul Scott provided compelling evidence that some people had taken a cavalier attitude towards safety. His testimony and the hundreds of pages of documents he provided give rise to serious questions about safety issues, about the way these issues have been handled, and about what the Sinn Fein minister and her senior civil servants actually knew.

"Caral Ni Chuilin has said that she knew nothing about these safety issues - but that is hard to believe, and we need to ascertain the facts."

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt said that despite her denials, it was inconceivable that Ms Ni Chuilin had not been made aware of concerns about safety at Casement Park.

He said: "I call on my party colleague Leslie Cree MLA and the other members of the Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee to vote tomorrow to initiate an inquiry into the minister and her special adviser.

"Ms Ni Chuilin cannot be allowed to hide behind the utterly feeble, but predictable complaint that this is all about an anti-GAA conspiracy.

"It is not. It is about the safety of our people, many of whom will have voted for Ms Ni Chuilin and whose lives could have been put at unnecessary risk by a minister who I fear may have failed in her duty to them."

Ms Ni Chuilin hit back at the claims last night, saying they were without foundation.

She said: "I have repeatedly stated that I will not compromise on safety and that no stadium will open without a valid safety certificate. I am confident that my stewardship of the stadia will stand up to scrutiny."

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