Belfast Telegraph

Probe into stadium 'bullying' claim

A full independent investigation is to be held into alleged harassment and bullying of an expert who raised safety concerns about a planned new sports stadium in Northern Ireland, sports minister Caral Ni Chuilin said.

Paul Scott claimed design flaws in the proposed new GAA Casement Park venue in west Belfast could lead to a Hillsborough-style disaster.

In April, Mr Scott told Stormont's Culture, Arts and Leisure committee that the 38,000-capacity arena could not be evacuated safely in certain emergencies. He alleged his concerns were ignored and he was being "bullied" into dropping his objections.

The minister said: "The chief Internal auditor has recommended that there is a full independent investigation into the allegations on the basis of the evidence provided to date.

"The investigation would seek to identify any evidence of misconduct and identify any systemic management failures on behalf of Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) officials. It has also been recommended that the investigation is taken forward by either an independent member or team."

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

The minister has insisted she was unaware of Mr Scott's concerns before his appearance in front of the committee.

She commissioned a departmental review of the project following the allegations.

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

The minister has told assembly members safety has always been of "paramount concern" to her department.

In a Stormont answer to UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, she said her department's senior civil servant will establish the probe in line with the auditor's recommendations.

She added: "To be clear, this investigation will be taken forward independently.

"I have asked the DCAL permanent secretary to ensure that I am not involved in the decision-making process and that the terms of reference for, and membership of the investigation are only communicated to me and to the public when arrangements are in place.

"The investigation will also be commissioned independently of officials working in the stadia programme."


From Belfast Telegraph