Seeing through the Maze

The row over the proposed new stadium for football, GAA and rugby rumbles on.. today, in the Belfast Telegraph DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson declares his support for the Maze site, the paper also trails tomorrow’s instalment, when the former Assembly Sports Minister, the UUP’s Michael McGimpsey, will put the case against. Meanwhile a seperate, but not unconnected row is emerging – UUP leader Reg Empey is calling for Secretary of State Peter Hain to intervene in the appointments to the Maze Implementation Panel. The Implementation Panel, to oversee the £85million project, is to be chaired by the DUP’s Edwin Poots, with Sinn Féin’s Paul Butler as vice-chair.

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  • I will re-iterate what i said on another thread. That Maze is a racing certainty to host the stadium not just for political reasons but mainly for security considerations.

    1. Maysfield – Is situated directly between Short Strand and The Markets. The potential for public disorder with thousands of flag waving NI fans passing by and through these areas is enormous. Quite simply it’s a 100% non starter. It’s all very well talking about new dispensations etc… but the potential for violence would be very high.

    2. Ormeau Park. Similar issues abound there. There will be many fans either going through or past The Markets, Holyland and Lower Ormeau areas. Like wise GAA fans visiting the proposed site would be very close to some surrounding Loyalist areas.

    There is no way the Govt are going to CREATE another potential sectarian abyss in the city. You can forget infastructure, tourism issues and all the superficial arguments. There will be no shared stadium in the city because (despite all the hype) the clock stopped here a long long time ago.

  • Pete Baker

    Where exactly it’s sited isn’t my main concern, macswiney.. I just want it to be economically viable.

    That economic assessment, which has been made, has been withheld from the public.. in the public’s interest, of course.

  • Glen Taisie

    When the bulldozers and diggers move in wilthey be “Smash-ing H Block”

  • west belfast resident

    Like it never happened.

  • J Kelly

    H Block was well and truly SMASHED in September 1983

  • bog warrior


    I will also re-iterate what i said on another thread. The gaa does’t need another stadium anywhere in the 6 counties. The Ulster Council are planning to upgrade Clones to a 50,000 capacity, Casement holds c. 28,000. The Ulster Final (the biggest game in the Ulster gaa calendar) this year attracted a crowd of just over 60,000 and was moved to Croker to accomodate. However when Donegal met Armagh in 2004 in the Ulster final the crowd was just around the 40,000 mark, so it could have been held in Clones (the Ulster Council shifted it in anticipation of an Armagh Tyrone final and a bumper payday but Donegal had other plans). The point is the gaa is unlikely to hold any big games at a new “national” stadium and the vat exemption in the 26 counties on gate receipts is another huge disincentive to holding major games in the North. The gaa has been blackmailed into going along with this because the government have said all three sports must sign up or it doesn’t go ahead. What’s their agenda? To make us all feel better about ourselves that the 3 sports can share a ground. The best way forward is for the sporting bodies to put the brakes on government, the gaa to back out and the IFA and Ulster Rugby Union to demand their current grounds be re-developed for a fraction of the cost of a new stadium.

  • eranu

    macswinney, i dont think anyone would actually be going through the markets or short strand estates. they’d just be walking down the main road into town, hopefully in a good mood. i think your over estimating possible trouble. its not the 1990s contentious march scenario of Prods V Catholics riot’em up…

    JD talks the typical politician speak of waffle and being something for all of NI blah blah blah…

    its the atmosphere of the day that counts. thats why it should be as central as possible in belfast. the atmosphere in the city could be great before and after a game. this just isnt going to happen if you have to drive out to a field in the country.

    read in the newletter that the ormeau stadium might go ahead anyway?

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    The decision by the GAA to give a guarantee to play games at this white elephant beggars belief. Bog warrior has it spot on.

  • Realist

    “this white elephant”


    I can assure you that this Northern Ireland football fan agrees with you 100%.

  • Bretagne

    Pat –
    maybe the GAA are separate the white elephant from the real prize.

    The GAA supports the stadium in principle. But GAA will only ever play and games there if they VAT exemption as Bog describes – its just a matter of backing Hanson into a corner – then
    when he caves… they get 17.5% more gate receipts from Casement, and every other game….

    At the moment the GAA stand to get what they want at no cost…

  • Crataegus

    When politicians ignore the economics you get the Dome. We need assets not future liabilities. In London the Olympics will be used to regenerate, what on earth will this proposal do?

    The point related to VAT is interesting and indicates yet another clever fixing of the tax regime.

  • Eranu,

    Sorry but i think you’re living in some sort of nether-world devoid of reality. If its at Maysfield then there is no avoiding going along East Bridge Street for EVERY fan coming from the city centre. Going via all points at the Markets is unavoidable. Likewise everyone from the East must pass Short Strand at Albert Bridge. The Ormeau situation is potentially worse again.

    PS If you think that “Prods v Catholics” contentious scenarios ended in the 1990’s then you have clearly been on a very long and expensive holiday.

    My main point here is that all of the financial considerations which Pete alludes to should be published, but that I believe that nobody has lent enough weight to what i believe will be considerable security concerns about the proposed Belfast sites. These are usually NEVER made public but invariably have much more weight in ultimate decision making on these issues.

  • eranu

    i couldnt remember the name of the street. its east bridge street that goes past central station and past st georges market? thats not going through the markets, come on! you wouldnt say that every morning 100s or 1000s of people in cars drive through the markets to get to work in the city?
    from the tone of your post you sound a bit tribal/territorial. what is the big deal in NI with the dreaded ‘other people’ passing through, or in this case near, someone elses ‘area’ ?
    and yeah, i havent lived in belfast for a few years. only as far away as dublin, but far enough to gain a different perspective on all this sort of thing.. i think people in belfast arent used to moving around the city as is normal everywhere else. they are conditioned to go from their area into the neutral city centre and then back home. granted these are hard areas with a possibility of P V RC trouble, but we should be trying to function as a normal city and get over all this.

  • Eranu,

    I didnt mean to be personal. Sorry if i did. You are correct that this area is a main thoroughfare during the day but its totally different at night time. I live on Laganbank Road (opposite Maysfield) and there are still sectarian attacks which take place.

    Nobody doesnt share you’re desire for progress but the fact is that only one section of the community here choose to follow N.Ireland. Thousands of people from mainly one background passing through this area is an incredibly volatile situation and in my opinion would not be allowed. (ie do you know that no Orange marches are allowed at ANY time to pass over the Albert Bridge via East Bridge Street).

    There is no point in ignoring these issued because you can rest assured that the NIO and security sources will not ignore them when the crunch comes. There is no point in creating a source of potential conflict out of a proposal which is designed to do the opposite.

  • Conor

    The new National Stadium will inevitably be a financial disaster. No one will ever play there considering how bad the Northern Ireland team is. therefore no income.

  • IJP

    …how bad it is, Conor, but it wasn’t always so bad and will surely improve one day. Indeed, a new stadium may be a catalyst.

    The stadium is a risk, yes.

    And our central problem in Northern Ireland is that we never take risks – not for peace, not for the economy, not for sport.

    I think it’s about time we tried a bit of vision and gave things a try.

  • GavBelfast

    Good to see Paddy Heaney in the Irish News writing a critical, questioning piece in yesterday’s paper and basically coming out against the Maze.

    Who REALLY wants this folly?

  • willie

    Is there a need for a multi sport stadium in the north ?

    I don’t believe there is.

    The Ulster Branch of the IRFU are planning to spend £5 million on Ravenhill, which will be carried out if four stages.

    Only £1.6 million of this money would come from grants and the rest would come from within the organisation.

    I don’t believe the Ulster branch have any real interest in the concept of a multi sport arena.

    The reason being, they don’t need it.The Rugby supporting public in Ulster are comfortable and content with playing at Ravenhill and the forward looking plans for the ground, only reinforce this.

    As the Ulster rugby chief executive Michael Reid said

    “we need to maintain our home for rugby football in Ulster, which is Ravenhill”.

    The GAA have spent in the region of 4.5 million on Casement Park over the last few years, again quite a proportion of which was self financed.

    The GAA don’t need a multi sports arena.

    The proposed arena, with a 45,000 capacity would not be big enough to hold an Ulster final attendance, for example.

    If the Ulster Branch don’t need it and the GAA don’t need it why spend 85 million of tax payers money to facilitate a sport that attracts the fewest supporters out of the three sporting codes.

    It does’nt make sense.

  • eranu

    macswiney, fair enough, if you live there then you know how things are.
    id hope that soon enough the day would come in belfast where people arent that bothered by sport. if they’re not into the team or sport then they’re just not interested in the event and thus not bothered by a load of supporters milling about. rather than it being an us and them thing.
    as a belfast prod in dublin i initially found it uncomfortable to be around lots of GAA and celtic supporters on occasion. but now it doesnt mean anything. something people have to just get over..
    i went to an ulster match at landsdowne road years ago. walking through the streets to the ground, there were plenty of locals selling ulster flags and hats etc. i presume they were not supporters of the ulster team. or probably not even into rugby.
    in a future relaxed belfast. if NI were playing at a Maysfield stadium. could you perhaps see yourself out on the street selling NI flags and funny hats? 🙂

  • tony

    The announcement from the IRFU that full international matches would be played at the proposed Maze stadium will strenthen its case among many sports fans.

    If the GAA come out with similar comments as regards Ulster finals etc…

    I think its all systems go.

  • Ricardo

    “The Amalgamation of Official NISCs (Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs) is currently embarking on a ‘roadshow’, taking their arguments on the National Stadium debate to various locations throughout the country. The presentation is set to be given to NISCs and local Councils in the coming weeks – a successful presentation has already been made to Ards Borough Council’s External Relations and Planning Committee.

    The next in the series of these events will be held as follows:

    The Royal Hotel, Cookstown at 8pm on Wednesday 26th April.

    Portstewart FC, Portstewart at 8pm on Wednesday 3rd May.

    These events are open to the public and admission is free, so why not come along and take part in the National Stadium debate.”

  • Peter

    Would you trust Belfast City council who can’t even provide a decent swimming pool (I go to Lisburn) with the responsibility of building a new stadium?