Long commends IFA realism

Alliance Sports Spokesperson has called on people to get behind the new stadium after IFA voted in principle to accept Government proposals at the Maze.

The Castlereagh Councillor stated: “Clearly I, like many other people, would prefer in principle to see a major stadium in central Belfast. However, we have to accept reality.

“The Alliance Party has long cautioned that the Greater Belfast area must have a proper, state-of-the-art stadium quickly. With the London Olympics of 2012, potentially a Glasgow Commonwealth games in 2014, and an Ireland-hosted Rugby World Cup possible for 2015, we need long-term planning to ensure Northern Ireland can participate in these major sporting events. We simply cannot afford the risk of a stadium which may not be up-and-running well in advance of these dates. Let us not forget that more people in Northern Ireland live within commuting distance of the Maze than of Belfast City Centre.

“The IFA has shown great realism here. With the prospect of thousands being knocked off Windsor Park’s capacity due to new safety standards and other projects still to start the long planning process, the Maze project offers the only chance for Northern Ireland to participate in major sporting events within five years. That is a big prize.

“This stadium will provide the foundation of our stated objective of enabling various sports — from GAA to rugby — to be played by as many people as possible. If done correctly, this project will be a huge social unifier.

“People’s reluctance to embrace an out-of-town stadium is understandable and we too would have concerns about the capacity proposed. However, this project can work — it will only do so, however, if we are prepared to make it work.


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