Since my announcement in October recommending planning approval for the redevelopment of Casement Park, my officials continue to make considerable progress towards issuing the final planning decision. Departmental officials have been working at pace to progress the required planning agreement, which must be in place before the final planning decision can issue. Anyone who cares about this important project will want it to be processed properly, and that is exactly what my Department is doing and at pace.
The Departmental Solicitor's Office and the GAA's legal team remain in regular contact about the details of the planning agreement, and both parties are keen to reach agreement as soon as possible. I look forward to the final planning decision issuing for the project, as it will give a real boost to sport across our island and to the local economy and will finally give the GAA its home in Ulster.
Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire as ucht a freagra. The Minister will be aware of the importance of the Casement Park development and how long it has taken to get to this stage. While I acknowledge and fully support the need for a rigorous planning process, we are still waiting for the application, despite the project having been given the go-ahead for next year. Will the Minister give a commitment that she will ensure that that is dealt with as soon as possible so that much-needed investment is delivered into the heart of west Belfast and that the GAA community gets the ground that it has been waiting for for many years?
I thank the Member for his question. He is right: the GAA has waited far too long to have its home in Ulster. I remain committed to ensuring that my officials progress the application properly and at pace. In fact, I am mindful of the fact that the Member's party and constituency colleague Paul Maskey recently met my officials and thanked them for their hard work on the application.
The application is currently with Belfast City Council for a period of consultation. I am sure that the council will return that to us in the quickest possible time frame. Of course, my officials will then continue to progress it as quickly as possible, in line with all the statutory requirements.
The Championship season beckons, Minister, and it would be a terrible shame to think that so many Antrim players, who are on the crest of a wave, having recently been promoted, will not get the opportunity to play on the hallowed turf of Casement Park. It is fantastic that we eventually have a Minister who is passionate about the delivery of Casement Park. Once the statutory processes are complete, how much funding will the Communities Minister have provided for Casement Park?