Stadium? Mission possible!

A view of a possible new stadium for Derry at Fort George, as envisaged by Eddie Mahon and architect David Karran.
A view of a possible new stadium for Derry at Fort George, as envisaged by Eddie Mahon and architect David Karran.

I think we can take as read the fact that the argument for the ‘refurbishment’ of Brandywell is now well and truly dead in the water. Too many insurmountable problems.

Anyway the money already talked about – in the region of £7million – would go a huge way to erecting a newbuild stadium. The downside of that is that this money would be, ideally, coming from ‘Belfast’ and if we’ve learned anything from history we know that’s NEVER going to happen. The current line on that front is that; “There’s absolutely nothing until after 2015 – and after that you take your place in the queue with hospitals schools etc”.

So, when sizing up that situation, let’s examine the recent ‘form’.

Fort George has lain ‘fallow’ since 2004 with not so much as a bird alighting on it. Then Nelson McCausland comes down with a ‘peace in our time’ offer of, not one, but TWO science parks. For those not in the know a ‘science park’ is simply a building which houses science projects. If you want a look at one go down to the Sports Complex where Paddy Shortall already has FOUR, three of which lie empty with 300,000 sq.ft. (that’s three hundred thousand!) of unused space. Thanks, Nelson!

The figure 250 now becomes pertinent. Derry are given 250 university places out of the 500 (still a pittance) originally promised. Meanwhile Belfast are given £250million to move the entire Jordanstown campus into the centre of the city from just a couple of miles down the road! (Careful, lads, or there’ll be no room for John Lewis when you eventually steal it from Lisburn!)

Sometime before this Arlene had made a game but, thankfully, unavailing effort to relocate us up to the Causeway Coast. She had misread the word ‘Londonderry’ on the telehouse contract for ‘Coleraine’.

Derry tumbleweed

When Belfast shot itself in the foot by allowing the madcap ‘flag’ protests to destroy the commerce of the city Stormont at once voted the traders three quarters of a million quid to ease their self-inflicted burden.

Meanwhile the tumbleweed is rolling round Derry’s city centre with no hope of a brass farthing! And the new £65m 3-in-1 stadium at the Maze which was a perfect solution to the problem? It couldn’t be built because “it would have been a shrine to terrorism” or, to interpret the euphemism, was too far from Royal Avenue!

Nuff said. Even though Belfast is creaming off ALL the money and jobs there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. In the old days it was simple. “50 years of Unionist misrule” had left us jobless, gerrymandered, university-less. And hopeless. But we knew our place then. The demarcation lines were very clear. Not any more, though. The ‘Peace Process’ arrived; and, with it, the new politics. We were able to democratically elect our own representatives. Hope sprang eternal. But there was a problem. The parties we’d hoped would represent us all had more representatives in Belfast than in Derry and the concept of ‘party unity’ now took preference over piddling little local issues.

My concern is of course to provide a football stadium for the greater urban area i.e. twenty mile radius of our city (as described by the European Union). According to current EU figures we have a population of 237,000. Belfast, on the same basis, has 641,638!

Belfast 110 Derry 0

So how has the money at this very moment actually being spent on sports grounds been equitably divided?

Let me tell you.

Belfast (Windsor Park, Ravenhill and Casement) gets £110million – a figure confirmed to me by telephone on Wednesday last. Derry get the usual – a big fat ZERO. And, so long as we’re prepared to take it, that’s the way it will go on. We’re no longer asking Belfast for a handout. We’re DEMANDING the money they’re THIEVING from us on a daily basis.

So how do we begin starting as we are behind the eight ball in terms of our political representation? We are a city of cultural and artistic giants ruled and represented by pygmies and it’s got to end NOW.

Next time - we’ll look at our situation at home.