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Windsor Park: Stormont anger at IFA silence over cause of stand failure

By David Young

Published 15/05/2015

Windsor Park is being redeveloped at minute, now that work will have to include a new West Stand
Windsor Park is being redeveloped at minute, now that work will have to include a new West Stand

A decision by the Irish Football Association never to reveal why a Windsor Park stand had to be demolished led to fury at Stormont.

Cracks were found in the West Stand after Northern Ireland's game against Finland in March.

Four thousand fans had watched the match in the stand - built with public money.

But in a letter to Stormont's culture, arts and leisure committee, IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson suggested the cause of the fatal damage would be kept under wraps.

"The ultimate cause of the failure of the stand is still to be determined, and our advice is not to issue copies of any report outside the project team," he wrote.

The IFA's refusal to divulge any information caused uproar on the Stormont committee that scrutinises the work of the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure.

DUP MLA William Humphreys said: "We need transparency.

"It is simply not good enough for the IFA to say that the report into the Windsor Park stand will never see the light of day.

"Taxpayers and the ratepayers of Belfast deserve answers.

"We need openness and transparency where public money is involved."

He said Sports Minister Caral ni Chuilin had told the Assembly that insurance would pay for rebuilding the stand.

"But if that is the case, why are the IFA withholding the report? Doing so simply raises more questions that need to be answered."

Football fans were also outraged. The Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs said fans would be concerned at the lack of transparency. A spokesman said there needed to be an explanation as to why the information can't be made public.

"If there are no legal impediments to prevent the disclosure of the information, then it would not be unreasonable to expect it to be released so that Northern Ireland fans, and indeed the wider public, can be reassured," he said.

In a statement the IFA said the failure of the stand was subject to ongoing discussions between it, its insurers and contractors, a specialist technical team, and other interested parties and insurers.

"It would at this stage be unhelpful and inappropriate to speculate on the outcome of these discussions," said the statement.

"A delegation from the association has already met with the CAL committee with regards to this matter and is prepared to meet again with the committee if requested."

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