Subregional Stadia Programme for Soccer: Funding

Oral Answers to Questions — Finance – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 18th October 2021.

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Photo of Rosemary Barton Rosemary Barton UUP 3:00 pm, 18th October 2021

5. Mrs Barton asked the Minister of Finance what discussions have taken place with the Minister for Communities regarding an increase in funding for the subregional stadia programme for soccer. (AQO 2597/17-22)

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

The Minister for Communities raised the matter of funding for the subregional stadia programme for soccer at a bilateral meeting with me on 16 September. I am aware that the Minister is progressing that issue, and I anticipate its forming part of the discussion on the upcoming multi-year Budget.

Photo of Rosemary Barton Rosemary Barton UUP

Minister, we are all aware of financial pressures across all the Departments. Are you content that there will be sufficient budget to commit to this programme?

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

Some £36·2 million was committed to the programme, and that commitment remains in place. As we all know, the cost of building has gone up very substantially. We hope that it will begin to level out or perhaps even come back down. This is a substantial figure, but it is to be spread out across all the facilities that might need it. We could always be doing with more. From my engagement with her, I know that the Minister for Communities is very keen to get as much money into these programmes as she can. She is very keen to support soccer, in this instance, and other sports. I have no doubt that she will make a strong argument for it in the Budget discussions.

Photo of Pat Sheehan Pat Sheehan Sinn Féin

Minister, will funding be available for the Casement Park regeneration as part of the Executive Budget?

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

The Casement Park project is part of the regional stadia programme, which is separate from the subregional stadia programme for soccer. Executive flagship programmes have been awarded priority, ring-fenced funding in recent Budgets. Funding for flagship programmes has, therefore, been separate and distinct from other departmental budgets. I have no doubt that the Minister for Communities is looking at the business case for Casement Park. The Executive recognise that it is a flagship project, and those projects are dealt with somewhat separately from other funding projects.

Photo of Justin McNulty Justin McNulty Social Democratic and Labour Party

Minister, will you confirm whether you have received any bids from the Communities Minister for the additional costs that it will obviously be necessary to meet on account of delays to the Casement Park project?

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

It is not a case of making bids. This is not a monitoring round, where people come forward with bids. The money is already there, this year, to do the work that is needed. Once all the necessary clearances are there, it is ready to be spent.

The question is about the forthcoming Budget and Budget discussions, which have only just begun. We have not got the final amount. We will not know until the end of this month how much money is in that Budget. I have no doubt that the Communities Minister will assess the business case for Casement and make sure that the required case is put forward. It is, as I have said, an Executive flagship project. It is not simply a responsibility of the Department for Communities; the Executive have agreed that this is a priority project. The funding will go to the Department for Communities to be allocated. I have no doubt that the Communities Ministers will be looking to that project as part of the Budget process, which we will get into in the next couple of weeks.