Colum Eastwoods says the green light must be given for a new state of the art stadium at the Brandywell
With £110m pledged by Sinn Fein’s Sports Minister for three stadium revamp projects in Belfast, the people of Derry have every right to feel aggrieved over Carál Ní Chuilín’s snubbing of the Brandywell redevelopment proposal.
Another season is almost upon us, yet Derry City Football Club’s wait for a stadium worthy of its standing in domestic and European competition lingers on.
The misery of the waiting is now compounded by confusion over whether plans for a major overhaul of the Brandywell will come to fruition at all after Sinn Fein Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said her department would not be funding the project.
Derry City Council has played its part with a commitment of £2.7m to revamp the stadium.
Yet plans for a complete overhaul of the partly dilapidated ground, which will cost in the region of £5m to complete, are being held up by the dithering of the minister.
In answer to a question I tabled in the Assembly last week, the Minister confirmed that her department will be paying not one penny for the redevelopment of the ground.
The club and its fans have every right to be dismayed and angered in equal measure by the announcement given the fact that the Minister has granted a whopping £110m for three stadium redevelopment projects in her home city of Belfast.
Her failure to inject what is in comparison a very small portion of her kitty towards the Brandywell project is a real kick in the teeth for Derry City, its fans and the general population of city.
In announcing a £62m package for the redevelopment of Casement Park, the Minister said the investment was ‘for the entire West Belfast community’. She added that the newly revamped ground would put that part of Belfast “on the map and open up many economic and tourism opportunities”.
Of course, I understand that a development of this type could have the potential to revitalise one of the most economically deprived constituencies in the North. However, the Foyle constituency shares the same levels of social and economic deprivation endured in West Belfast and the Brandywell, and adjoining wards, are where this poverty is at its most crippling in the city.
DCAL has failed the people of this city in refusing to commit to the Brandywell project, the plans for which, I understand, are ready to be submitted for planning permission. Promises to deliver new playing surfaces and changing facilities at the Daisyfield and Showgrounds are to be very much welcomed but the Department simply must do more for this area.
A green light for funding for a new state-of-the-art Brandywell stadium would not only lift the fortunes of the locality but boost the economy of the entire city.
Derry City Council has committed to the provision of a revamped Brandywell ground but the local authority is a couple of million pounds short of meeting the asking price of the complete overhaul – which will include a new playing surface, changing facilities and replacement of the condemned Glentoran Stand. It’s now incumbent on the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure to do the right thing by the people of Derry.
As excitement builds towards a new football season and the prospect of more European glory nights in Derry, the Minister must move to end Derry City’s misery by ensuring the club and its fans are provided with the re-developed home ground they so badly need and so rightly deserve.