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Casement Park revamp would be huge boost on many levels

By Staff Reporter

The news that Ireland's bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup would greatly suffer without a redeveloped Casement Park, as revealed in this newspaper yesterday, will have caused much concern in the GAA and the wider sporting world.

It is worth repeating some of the informed comments that the Chairman of the bid Hugo MacNeill - the former Ireland full-back of 37 caps- makes.

"In the study that Deloitte did for the Irish Rugby Union, they said we would get well over 300,000 (visiting fans).

"What I would say is it's very important for Northern Ireland, for the Ulster contingent to play a full part in the Rugby World Cup. Without it, the problem is you don't have a ground that size in this part of Ireland."

This information is pertinent in the light of the incredibly tedious adventures around the redevelopment of the west Belfast venue.

A residents group, which appears to represent only some and certainly not all of the people in its constituency, have pursued through the courts system their own interests.

And the one and only issue that they have is a modern sports facility being in the vicinity.

Never mind that Casement Park has stood since 1953.

Ignore, if you will, the amount of jobs that would be created by having the largest venue in Northern Ireland on their doorstep.

Or even the amount of sports fans coming regularly into the area, flooding into the pubs, shops and restaurants.

Attempting to understand their side of the argument is ultimately tiresome. Yet they have pushed it as far as Judicial Review.

Justice Mark Horner will reveal his findings in little over a fortnight.

It is too simple to characterise this issue as one of progress versus the rights of people in the area. But we have to see what is best for all concerned.

A Rugby World Cup could come to Ireland. Having studied the example of the Special Olympics in 2003, we know how well we can do these events. Every large town and city would be competing for the right to host a team.

For a time, the culture of the team would be adopted throughout these towns, cities and counties.

Over 300,000 rugby tourists will fly in and as we all know, your average rugby fan is an affluent gent who is not too concerned with saving money while on holiday.

The entire experience will enrich Ireland, north and south.

As the CEO of New Zealand's Rugby World Cup said after the triumph of 2011: "We will never be the same again."

If we lose out on an opportunity such as this, to pander to the wishes of a handful of malcontents, then we surrender ourselves to the politics of negativity.

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