Belfast Telegraph

Sports chief aired Casement concerns year ago, MLAs told

By David Young and Noel McAdam

Safety concerns about the troubled Casement Park development plan were made public by a senior official a year ago in the Belfast Telegraph, a Stormont probe has learned.

During an interview with Sports Editor Steven Beacom published on June 14, 2014, Sport NI Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown revealed fears about inadequate safety plans for the landmark west Belfast project.

Ms McKeown said: "We have had some challenges in relation to Casement Park, but we are continuing to give advice and work with the design team and work with the department to keep that progress steady.

"I think the current design has run into a problem in relation to emergency exiting. We are working very closely with our DCAL colleagues to get the best design that will provide a really good experience - and keep people safe at the same time."

The interview forms part of a massive dossier received by the Stormont committee investigating safety concerns at Casement.

Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin has insisted she was not made aware of serious concerns that the revamp of Casement Park could lead to a disaster. She has told MLAs that the first she heard of the concerns was when they were raised at the Assembly by safety expert Paul Scott, who suggested the plans could lead to a tragedy on the scale of the Hillsborough disaster.

The former head of the civil service, Sir Nigel Hamilton, told yesterday's meeting of the Assembly Culture, Arts and Learning scrutiny committee that health and safety were never raised as a serious concern.

"If there were issues there which were deal-breakers or which would have seriously undermined the project, then I would have expected that those would be raised at the sponsor board," he said.

Committee chairman Nelson McCausland said the investigations into the Casement Park issues reminded him of BBC slapstick comedy show Fawlty Towers.

"No one seems to know anything. It's almost like Fawlty Towers, and Manuel - 'I know nothing'," he said.

"Everybody's saying: 'Nobody told me, I didn't know.' There's something wrong in the system in the w ay it's been operating."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph