“Residents also protested outside the local Sinn Féin offices…”

As the BBC reports, local residents have continued their protest against the planned £70million redevelopment of Casement Park in west Belfast.  From the UTV report

Around 100 residents took part in a demonstration on Saturday afternoon. They say they are now considering taking legal action.

One woman said: “The main thing is the height of it, it’s going to be about 129ft and right around the whole outskirts of the houses.”

A man said: “It’s an absolute monstrosity. The residents are not going away – we were here before the GAA and we’ll be here after.”

Another woman said: “We’ve seen people power in other aspects of the community over the years and we’re fighting for our neighbourhood. The next step will be talking to our solicitors and looking at ways to take a judicial review over the planning application.”

And the BBC report adds

[The protesting residents] said they were concerned that the height of the structure would cast their houses into permanent shadow.

The GAA said it wanted to continue to engage with residents but the chair of the residents association, John Crossey, said that was not happening.

Residents also protested outside the local Sinn Féin offices – angry their political representatives were not doing more.

Sinn Féin MP for west Belfast, Paul Maskey, said he has done all in his power to facilitate negotiations between the GAA and residents and he will continue to do so.

As I pointed out previously, with his party being, partly, responsible for the divvying up of the ”package of circa £138million [to] be used to upgrade regional stadiums at Windsor Park, Ravenhill and Casement Park” the local MP is as patronising sympathetic as you’d expect…

Planning permission for the Casement Park redevelopment was announced on 19 December 2013.  And the Northern Ireland Sports Minister, Sinn Féin’s Carál Ní Chuilín, was so delighted there was not one, but two consecutive press releases to confirm funding for the scheme.

That was promptly followed by the Minister’s announcement of approval for the funding agreement with the Irish Football Association over the £31million funding for the redevelopment of Windsor Park in South Belfast.

But no mention, that I can find, of a resolution to Carál Ní Chuilín’s previously reported concerns over the governance of the Irish Football Association

The IFA scrapped the requirement for suitability assessments for senior officials earlier this year [2013].

“I need to be assured that appropriate governance and accountability structures have been maintained,” said Minister Ní Chuilín in the Assembly [Hansard 10 September 2013].

“Until that happens, I can’t sign off on any agreement.”

Then again, as BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport mentioned back in March 2011

…one aspect of the announcement which is questionable is its very symmetry. If the Executive took a needs based approach rather than a politically expedient route, would both the GAA and Soccer require exactly £61.4 million? I know it’s a sporting cliche to talk about a “game of two halves”, but is this the sporting equivalent of the judgment of Solomon?

It stirs memories of the symmetrical solution to the Victims Commissioner dillemma – we can’t agree on one so let’s appoint four.


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  • Neil

    Residents also protested outside the local Sinn Féin offices…

    I suppose this is another rare public challenge to the hegemony of Sinn Fein’s power base.

    Someone will be out with the paint next.

  • Charles_Gould

    It is interesting to see whether SDLP can break into West Belfast.

    SDLP should invest in long term there to attain a second seat there.

  • Neil

    At the risk of hijacking a thread – they probably should. Discontent is high. See comment on new PSNI CC thread. The IRA has gone and the cops have thrown us to the dogs.

  • Red Lion

    Holy Cow, a tangible sign of discontent amongst a traditional Sinn Fein electorate, against SF.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ive seen some pretty snarky comments on FB suggesting the residents were acting to an anti SF agenda by protesting outside Connelly House.

    I’d say that’s an indication of them not being used to people saying no.

  • Charles_Gould

    I always took the view that it’s mighty hard to maintain 5 seats in a constituency for any party. Not just for balancing reasons. More because there are diminishing benefits to a constituency from a 3rd or 4th MLA from the same party. North Antrim doesn’t need a 3rd Dup. Nor does Lagan Valley.

    SF in West Belfast have some great MLAs. But they’re not all great, and Alex Attwood lacks the popular touch. A charismatic SDLP candidate with charisma and street cred… could make inroads. A good local SDLP candidate could offer more than the weakest SF candidate.

  • son of sam

    It will be certainly be interesting to see how this pans out.The idea of ordinary residents having the “effrontery ” to picket outside Sinn Fein offices must be unsettling for the local party hierarchy.It tends to take away from the carefully cultivated image of the D F M and other S F assembly members being pictured at G A A matches in the V I P seats.With the local elections coming up in May,the Shinners will need to pursue a delicate balancing act between keeping in with the Ulster Council and trying to persuade the local residents that they are on their side!

  • tacapall

    This is a strange course of events considering leading Sinn Fein members bought houses next to Casement park not long before the party announced the redevelopment. It was Sinn Fein who controlled the residents group and it now seems however improbable that they dont. I guess thats politics for you but I dont think its anything to be alarmed over.

  • mr x

    Hard to justify sending over 100 million on pointless stadia when hospitals are allegedly falling apart.

  • With ten council seats in the West Belfast, the balance of 8:2 in favour of SF over SDLP is probably a good indication of the balance.
    Indeed SDLP actually gained a seat there last time.
    As Mr Gould observes holding five Assembly seats from six is a tall order for any party.
    Much as Id like to talk up SDLP prospects of a gain, that might be a decade away…although much depends on events as well as steady but visible progress over Euros, locals and Westminster.
    The second SDLP name in West Befast is Tim Attwood an excellent councillor but two Attwoods in the Assembly sounds like too much of a dynasty….a bit like Maskeys I suppose.
    Colin Keenan…had a decent first run in 2011. He is impressive and has a recognisable name now. Something to build on. Id like to see him in Assembly.

    But while its probably true that the balance of votes in Owenvarragh and Stockmans area next to Casement is not as bad as 2:8 for SDLP, its a bad mistake for Sinn Fein to try and portray the concerned residents as “anti SF”.
    That tactic would only work if the immediate area was some kinda SDLP citadel and it isnt.

  • Mick Fealty

    From my understanding, there is no such place in West. SDLP need consider the problem from a respectful distance, because in some respects SF have only inherited the patronage model from the SDLP.

    It needs much smarter politics than they had when they were last in charge in the 80s. As Devenport notes above a policy led focus on outcomes rather inputs is what’s needed.

    Take the residents complaints about traffic. My guess is car ownership in the constituency has grown exponentially in the last fifteen years. Try getting out in a hurry early on a Friday afternoon for an urgent appointment in Dublin?

  • Mick.
    Its 8.45 on Monday morning and my wife has just left for work in the place where she has worked since she was 20 less than a mile from casement park.
    For most of those years I always travelled with her to Belfast, getting a bus to Central Belfast from the “Busy Bee” across the road from casement.
    For most of those years, I made the homeward journey with her. Generally speaking, Friday was an exception as she leaves work earlier.
    (On the occasions that I still go to Belfast, I come home with her).

    To take the guesswork out of it, I asked her without prompting, which day was the hardest on traffic and she detects no difference. She (as always) travels up the Stewartstown Road, over the old Cuts at Dunmurray, negotiates some heavy traffic around Belsize Road in Lisburn and on to the M1 at Sprucefield.
    I always thought the traffic was heavy enough going up the Falls but it always seemed to lighten up as I got beyond Milltown, Kennedy Way and Shaws Road as the traffic went off in different directions.
    A journey that I would make rarely now of course but my impression is that “getting up the road” is actually easier than it was. Traffic can after all leave the M1 at Blacks Road.

    Match Day Parking was a problem in 1960 and it still is. More traffic of course but prolly still as much from Tyrone, Cavan and parked up the Monagh Road, the last time I was there.
    I honestly dont think theres some great pressing issue beyond NIMBYism. No more or less than the A5 or the Crumlin incinerator.
    It will be amusing to watch the Antrim (particuarly) Belfast) “Frankies” look around at Connolly House to get a policy but they have been causing amusement in Ulster GAA circles for years.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    Pardon my ignorance, but “Frankies”?

    Was ist das?

  • It seems to be a nickname given by GAA supporters in the other counties….where there has been a long tradition of GAA support….to first generation Antrim supporters, who attend the only Championship game and subsequent “second chance” game that Antrim is involved in during the Championship season.
    They can be guaranteed to show up in Derry, Armagh or Donegal once a year, where they will gather in groups and impress the locals (SF and SDLP supporters) with their in depth knowledge of GAA tactics…the result of watching matches for weeks.
    Frankies are usually employed as taxi drivers or community workers in West Belfast, wear GAA shirts when there isnt a match on and usually refer to each other as ” mo chara” and tweet in Gaelic.
    They are better than the half-time. Entertainment.

  • Rory Carr

    Thanks for that FJH. With a bit of lucky the Frankies and the Nimbyists will cancel each other out. (Peacefully, I trust, in the spirit of GFA).

  • Dec

    AFAIK, ‘Frankies’ is a term of endearment rural types have for their city-dwelling betters. Originates from a reference to post war rationing books [getting ‘franked’] or so I was told.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “Screw down my diodes and call me Frank”

    The ye all kindly, I ruddy well love this kind of thing.

  • cynic2

    “the cops have thrown us to the dogs”

    Who put the dogs in this position?

  • cynic2

    “I’d say that’s an indication of them not being used to people saying no.”

    Its a breach of their human rights

  • cynic2

    So how much will it cost to buy the protesters off this time? Why not just close Casement Park down on safety ground and relocate it

  • Mick Fealty

    The protesters are sunk unless they can get a judicial review to look at the decision-making process. Ironically it would the SDLP in the firing line if that turns up the goods for them.

  • son of sam

    According to Tapacall(11-52) Sinn Fein announced the redevelopment of Casement Park.I was under the impression that it was the Ulster Council of the G A A who were responsible for the redevelopment and all related media matters.It may have suited the D C A L minister to be associated with the press conference but if (as Tapacall says ) S F controlled the residents group,she might have been better briefed by those on the ground on the apparent discontent .

  • Coll Ciotach

    Unfortunately for all in slugger SF will ride this out without much problem, see Paul Maskey deriding them as anti-SF elements according to the Irish News. Well I suppose in this case they are but I bet that they will still vote for SF in the next election. The SDLP is not a choice, little partitionists, the “N” word never far from their lips.

    As far as the stadium is concerned I believe it will be built and in a few years all this will be forgotten.

    I wonder if Lucinda will cast her eye north? I don’t think so but for SF to get a credible opposition then the southern parties need to move north but they too are partitionist and would not dream of moving north. The best you can hope for is for them to issue tirades from the ditch.

    So it is SF for the foreseeable future and these protests are not going anywhere.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    son of sam, the original decision was made by the SF minister at DCAL after the collapse of the multi-sport stadium idea for the Long Kesh site. Casement was to be be given a ton of money alongside Ravenhill Road and Windsor. Members of the GAA Ulster Council just jumped aboard the gravy train.

  • son of sam

    Coll Ciotach
    I suppose the biggest sin in West Belfast is to be”anti-Sinn Fein “.Presumably as a resident of the locality,you are au fait with the feeling on the ground.While you are critical of the S D L P, my impression is that Sinn Fein are operating the current constitutional arrangements with as much relish as any other party.You’re obviously jesting about Lucinda.She hasn’t even formed a party down South yet and her biggest supporter seems to be the Sunday Independent!

  • Charles_Gould

    SDLP’s strength seems that they will stand up for people north of the border; they are not taking orders from Dublin.

  • Coll Ciotach


    Yes – I accept that Lucinda is from the FG stock who identifies Ireland as having 26 counties and the north is more foreign to them that Borneo.

    However the point I was making is that there is no alternative for nationalists to vote for and until it arrives cavalry like from south of the border it is either vote SF or not bother voting at all, at least that is my option. SDLP are not an option, the party of Castle Catholics and Horse Protestants would not get my vote. (Ooops – now I have done it).

    I have no time for their partitionist stance, that was fine in the ’60s but does not cut the mustard now. We want unity with Dublin, not isolation from Dublin.

    So Sinn fein will ride out this storm and their vote may drop in numbers, but they do not care, they will still be cock of the nationalist walk and will continue to snip at SDLP – expect the SDLP to lose in Derry – either to SF or Socialists or even the so called dissidents.

    SF are the voice of nationalism. And they will remain so for a very long time.

  • Mick Fealty

    We’re drifting dangerously into a hack fight, and disregarding the issue at hand.

  • Morpheus

    Is this even an issue? ‘Residents object to planning decision so take their case to elected officials’ – with respect, it’s hardly earth-shattering stuff. They protested outside the SF offices near me regarding wind-farms but I don’t think it is a vote-changer.

    I agree with Pete’s comments regarding the sudden turn-around concerning governance at the IFA – the man in question who held up proceedings failed not one, not two but three suitability tests yet it hasn’t really been made clear what has changed.

  • Dixie Elliott

    Anti-Sinn Fein…. Again?

    Ah no, surely they could be a bit original for a change?
    We hear that and of course anti-peace process churned in response to any group or person who’d dare criticise the Adamsites from Belfast to Cork and back to Derry….

  • son of sam

    Don’t tell me you’re surprised .Leopards don’t change their spots!

  • sean treacy

    Dixie,in todays Irish News Carmel McCavana of the residents association accepting “some dissident republican groups attended” and “there were people there from other groups who did jump on the bandwagon but we cant do anything about that” In other words the headline should read “Dixies mates picket SF-whats new?

  • Charles_Gould

    It makes sense that defenseless residents would turn to whomsoever can stand up to SF autocrats.

  • Dixie Elliott

    Whats new sean tracey?

    Lets see….The shinners had a meeting a few weeks back in the Rathmor centre at which they ‘discussed’ ending commemorations for dead IRA volunteers. Something to do with Haass I believe.

    At the same time the ole leadership have begun attending commemorations for British war dead…

    The old saying about the Normans becoming more Irish than the Irish themselves is being turned on its head by Adamsism…

  • sean treacy

    So when the commemorations continue we will all know youre talking bullshit as usual.

  • Coll Ciotach

    What a load of old blarney is being expressed here. The residents group, and I know some on it, not many, just a few, are not controlled by SF, the are not aligned in any way with any dissident group, they are just ordinary people with an axe to grind and they are grinding it. I do not care one way or another having no interest in any form of sport and not being affected by the development. Why can people commenting here just not accept that this is a single issue protest and leave it like that instead of trying to present it as an anti-SF uprising in West Belfast or the dissidents?

    It is not so.

  • aquifer

    The politics of now challenging politics on the never never.

    Sinn Fein will have to up their game.

  • Charles_Gould

    Makes sense for SDLP to move in on traditional nationalist territory. Best way to win vote share.

  • Morpheus

    You think they don’t already do that Charles?

  • Charles_Gould


    I don’t think they have really tried very hard in W Belfast lately, but I may be mistaken.

  • son of sam

    What’s your knowledge of West Belfast?

  • Dec

    Very little, I’d imagine

    ‘It makes sense that defenseless residents would turn to whomsoever can stand up to SF autocrats.’

    I think you mean GAA autocrats, Charles, what with the re-development of Casement being their idea and all. But hey, no matter what the disidents get up to, so long as they picket a SF office every once in a while, they can’t be such a bad bunchs of lads altogether.

    I do have sympathy with the residents but I can’t help but recall that when the announcement was originally made pre-Christmas at casement, the protestors must have numbered about 6 (one of whom travelled by pram). Now there’s around 100 picketing a SF office. At the risk of sounding cynical, could it be that the numbers were belatedly bolstered by those who are desperately trying to establish some political (and electoral) relevance?

  • Barnshee

    “We’re drifting dangerously into a hack fight, and disregarding the issue at hand”

    Correct –the stadiums in residential areas cause what can only describes as urban blight. Ravenhill is the classic example with match night imposing nigh intolerable burdens on the local populace./area.

    If relocation is not an option the sporting body should consider acquisition of significant amounts of adjacent property to ease traffic problems and mitigate the annoyance factor.

  • Morpheus

    If only the multi-sports stadium went ahead at the Maze eh?

  • Tochais Síoraí

    @Barnshee – Not sure about that. I’d say there are lots of people living near Ravenhill who quite like the atmosphere on match nights. Bit of life around the place and its not as if they get a rowdy crowd in. Big stadia out on the edge of cities like Homebush, Stade de France are awful – no pre match atmosphere.

    Having said all that, I’ve been on here before about Casement tho, the scale of development there is not warranted, no need for a 38000 stadium – the money could be far better spent elsewhere.

  • Charles_Gould

    Toch S:

    What’s the present capacity of Casement Park?

  • Charles_Gould

    To answer my own question its at present 32k. So if its sold out often, then going to 38k may be warranted.

  • Neil
  • Charles_Gould

    Very good Neil he he.

    Is it at full capacity oftentimes?

  • Old Mortality

    You’d think they’d have the decency to leave his name alone. Did anyone bother to ask him if he’d like an Irish name invented for him?

  • Tochais Síoraí

    @Charles – You don’t really follow GAA do you?
    (It’s never sold out. Nor even anywhere close).

  • son of sam

    I note in today’s Irish News that John Crossey denies that the Residents group is linked to any other organisation.But I suppose people will believe what they want to believe and in West Belfast, Sinn Fein don’t like any dissenting voices!

  • Charles_Gould

    I think it would be a good idea if Casement can be shared with Rugger and Soccer. After all , Ravenhill has an ultimate capacity of 26k at most (when they add the corners) and Windsor Park a capacity of about 20k. So if association or rugby football has a big game, such as NI v England, or an Ulster v Claremont Semi Final , then Casement would have the needed capacity.

  • Barney

    Isn’t this a great thread examining the exotic people of west Belfast!!!

    Perhaps the story here is that the people of West Belfast are people.

  • Charles_Gould

    Tochais Síoraí

    Why are they increasing its capacity if it has not been sold out?

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