Sports Minister Paul Givan has outlined his determination to proceed with the redevelopment of GAA stadium Casement Park.
Givan's comments follow an Ulster GAA announcement yesterday that, after an extensive consultation process, lasting 31 weeks and including almost 5,000 individuals and organisations, they are ready to submit a fresh planning application early in 2017 for the new Casement Park.
Work on the west Belfast venue has been delayed in recent years by planning problems and concerns from local residents, but there are now hopes that with a new capacity of 34,500, rebuilding can begin next year with the job completed in 2019.
With £72 million of Northern Ireland Executive money being pumped into the project, Givan is keeping a close eye on developments.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the DUP Minister said: "I've made it clear since I first came into office that there is an Executive commitment to support the development of Casement, but it is for the GAA to lead on that."
Givan added that a new Casement Park is 'critical' to the success of Ireland's bid to stage the 2023 Rugby World Cup revealing that if the tournament comes to the island there is a possibility the capacity at Ulster's Kingspan Stadium, currently at 18,196, could be increased.
"We need Casement to get the matches that we would want as you go through the competition. Casement is very much part of the bid. The indications I'm getting are that we are well placed to secure this bid," stated Givan.
"The bid is based on the current capacity at Kingspan. I know Ulster Rugby would like to see if that could be increased slightly to open up the opportunity for some of the bigger games as well."