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Paul Givan: I will be happy to go to watch a GAA match

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland's latest Minister for Sport has revealed that he will happily attend a GAA match in his new role.

Paul Givan also insists that he wants the new Casement Park stadium built as soon as possible.

In the past there has been controversy surrounding some Unionist politicians not going to GAA fixtures, but when asked the question directly by the Belfast Telegraph, the DUP man did not pause for thought when answering: "I will, yes. It doesn't present a difficulty for me going to a GAA match. Whenever invitations comes in, like all the invitations across the department, I'll consider them.

"I haven't been to a GAA game before but I know that GAA is integral to the community it operates in. From a cultural aspect there can be tension but in terms of pure sport I believe the connection the GAA has with its community is to be admired."

The Minister is keen to see construction work begin on GAA ground Casement Park in west Belfast, after a series of issues involving residents, safety and the capacity delayed the £61million government-funded re-development.

Givan added that Casement is vital to the cross-border Ireland bid to stage the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

"There are issues with how it's been progressing but the department is engaged with steering groups surrounding that and trying to work with the GAA to navigate a path that will allow Casement to be developed," said Givan.

"The GAA is leading that and obviously they've had a period of consultation now with the community. It's important to have that when developing stadiums and you get the local people to buy into the process. A new planning application will be submitted this year and we'll develop the business plan with the GAA as we progress.

"I want to see Casement built. We have a pot of money to work with. Obviously we have to look at what could be done with the funding that is being requested as we go forward with Casement.

"That will present challenges I think for everybody involved, the GAA included.

"It may well present a challenge for this department because of what was allocated and I am happy to take on that challenge. You think of the Rugby World Cup bid for 2023, a lot of that bid is predicated on Casement being there in terms of providing the capacity that would be needed to host a World Cup rugby match in Belfast."

The GAA hope work will start on the stadium next year and matches will be played there in 2019 but the Minister would not put a date on when Casement would be finished.

He said: "I'm committed to playing my full role and ensuring my department is helpful in taking all of this forward."

Belfast Telegraph


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