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Residents rejoice as David halts Goliath in fight over size of new stadium

By Nevin Farrell

It was news greeted with hugs and thumbs-up signs.

In the streets around Casement Park yesterday - against the backdrop of towering floodlights - it was clear to see the relief of residents who claimed that a new 38,000 capacity ground would have effectively been like a huge wall just yards from their homes.

Residents hugged each other and praised the organisers of a campaign which has taken an important step towards ensuring that only a smaller stadium is given the green light for the west Belfast site.

On the city centre side of the ground is Mooreland Park while on the opposite side - behind the current main stand at Casement Park - is Owenvarragh Park. Residents from both united to set up MORA (the Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association) amid fears their homes would be dwarfed by any new construction. Together they took on the might of the GAA. Yesterday MORA's chairman Carmel McCavana (57), whose Mooreland Park home has campaign posters in the windows, said they never thought that a small residents group would be able to have taken on the Government and an organisation like the GAA.

Ms McCavana said: "We're absolutely delighted. We never thought that we could take on all the powers that be, the Planning Service, the GAA, the Assembly.

"We are delighted that sense has been seen. We know that the judge came to visit the area and I think that anybody who comes down here and drives around can see that to put 38,000 into Casement Park just was not going to work. The police were also very critical of the traffic arrangements and that was also one of our strong points.

"We are just local people who have never been involved in anything like this but to take it on and to win has been fantastic."

She said if the GAA had talked to residents about their concerns at the beginning of the project, they would not have been forced into court action.

"We are not against the development of Casement Park at all. Most of us in this street have some sort of connection with the GAA, but a 20-25,000 stadium would be sufficient. It wouldn't be towering above houses and would fit in with the local area," she added.

Dominic McSherry, MORA vice chairman, who lives in Owenvarragh, pointed to floodlights towering over his home and said that would be the height of the proposed new stadium which would completely dominate the rear of his house.

He said: "There is a sense of relief. We have been vindicated and the issues we have raised have been upheld. We want to see something like the size of Ravenhill.

"If they delivered Ravenhill at Casement Park the residents here would be doing hand-stands in the street."

Outside Casement Park, Bernadette O'Connor from Finaghy agreed the proposed new stadium would be detrimental.

"I think it would be a lot of hassle here if it did go ahead. This road is bad enough for traffic without that."

Larry Drumm (49), owner of The Gem shop across the road from Casement Park, said: "We want a stadium to go ahead but we want the residents' rights to be respected. We think a compromise, a smaller capacity, would be the answer for everyone. We don't want to lose that investment to this area."

However, Annmarie Carlin (54) from Poleglass, wanted a bigger all-seated stadium, saying: "It would be good and it is going to be used for other things apart from the GAA, but then I don't live around here, if I did I would feel differently."

One elderly man said: "The GAA is not interested in the community here and doesn't care who they offend. The GAA is in freefall and the only way they are going to get money is big concerts. This is a great result for the ordinary man and woman."

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