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Stadium safety fears to be probed

Published 14/05/2015

Warnings about safety at the proposed new stadium will be investigated by a Stormont committee
Warnings about safety at the proposed new stadium will be investigated by a Stormont committee
No compromise on safety: Caral Ni Chuilin
Warnings about safety at the proposed new stadium will be investigated by a Stormont committee

A Stormont committee is to hold an inquiry into safety concerns over a proposed new Casement Park stadium in west Belfast.

The move comes after an expert told the Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee he feared inadequate provision of exits could trigger a crush in the event of an emergency evacuation.

Last month, Paul Scott, from the Safety Technical Group, said the proposed 38,000-capacity stadium could not be emptied safely in an emergency and warned of a similar situation to the Hillsborough tragedy.

He told the committee he was put under "undue pressure" by government officials to approve plans for the new ground.

In the event, approval for the new Stormont-funded GAA facility - a proposed venue for Ireland's 2023 rugby World Cup bid - was overturned in the High Court last December after residents won a legal challenge to block the plans.

The court action focused on the impact the stadium would have on the community around it, not on safety matters.

Plans are currently being redrawn, with the GAA still hopeful a new stadium will be built on the site.

Members of the CAL committee today voted 5-3 in favour of holding a formal inquiry. The terms of reference for the probe have yet to be set.

SInn Fein sport minister Caral Ni Chuilin has insisted she was unaware of Mr Scott's concerns before his appearance before the committee.

The minister has commissioned a departmental review of the project in light of the allegations.

Sinn Fein committee members voted against an inquiry.

The GAA has denied any wrongdoing and stressed it has an "impeccable safety record".

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