Belfast Telegraph

Frustrated Northern Ireland fans ask to meet with minister

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland supporters have requested a meeting with Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín as a question mark hangs over £26m funding for the redevelopment of Windsor Park.

The Minister has warned the Irish Football Association that she will not provide the cash investment until the IFA has "appropriate governance".

Fans are concerned the much needed transformation of Windsor will be shelved following the controversial appointment of Amateur League official David Martin as deputy president of the IFA.

Members of the IFA's council backed Martin for the position even though he had been forced to resign from the same post three years ago as a result of his role in the unfair dismissal of Howard Wells as IFA chief executive.

That unsavoury episode cost the association £500,000 and the then president Raymond Kennedy also had to stand down.

Martin had previously failed a suitability test for senior office but the removal of that criteria paved the way for his return to the deputy president role this month.

The Irish FA say they are now working closely with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure to ensure Windsor Park will be rebuilt on time and to budget.

IFA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson said: "I'm confident we'll be able to get to a place where DCAL are happy and we're happy."

There is a feeling among Northern Ireland fans that the IFA's image suffered another blow with Martin's appointment and Gary McAllister, chairman of the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters' Clubs, says DCAL's thoughts are crucial.

"We have made contact with the department and hope to arrange a meeting where we can get clarification on this issue," he said.

"We want to hear the Minister's thoughts. There is no question fans are concerned about recent developments and they simply want to see Windsor Park redeveloped without any delay."

While some sources have stated that Martin received unanimous support, it is understood that the AONISC's representative withheld support for his election.

Belfast Telegraph


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