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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 September, 2004, 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK
GAA to support stadium plan
The Gaelic Athletic Association has agreed to stage games at a proposed new multi-million pound sports stadium for Northern Ireland.

The move is a major boost for the planned 30,000 seater facility.

Twelve sites are competing to be the location for the stadium - if the government gives the project the go-ahead.

The government has insisted the stadium would only be built if it had the backing of soccer, rugby and GAA.

The secretary of the GAA's Ulster Council, Danny Murphy said he believed the stadium would play an important role in the evolving future of the province.

In an interview in the Belfast Telegraph newspaper on Wednesday, Mr Murphy said the association would like to play its part.

We have always stated very clearly that in any publicly funded stadium here, the GAA would like to have a facility for playing gaelic games
Danny Murphy
GAA Ulster secretary

He said that in the event of the stadium being built it had the potential to signpost that sport was a vehicle for reconciliation, respect and inclusiveness in society.

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster, Mr Murphy said his comments did not indicate any radical change in the GAA's position on the matter of a national stadium.

"The idea was first mooted with us as far back as the 1990s," he said.

"From that time up to the present day, we have always stated very clearly that in any publicly funded stadium here, the GAA would like to have a facility for playing gaelic games," he said.

'Leadership'

A government spokesperson said they always said that the GAA had engaged seriously and professionally over the stadium and that Mr Murphy's comments were a welcome contribution.

SDLP Culture, Arts and Leisure spokesperson Pat Ramsey praised the GAA for their commitment to support a new stadium.

"A new multi-sports stadium in Northern Ireland will create important opportunities for our talented young athletes to excel," he said.

"Support from the GAA in this venture is very much welcome.

"The GAA have shown tremendous leadership, this action will help facilitate peace and reconciliation between our young people by encouraging them to share sporting facilities."

The next step is to agree a site acceptable to all three sporting bodies.

Among the contenders are six sites in Belfast, including the Titanic Quarter in the east of the city, and the site of the old Maze Prison, near Lisburn, which is a strong favourite.

A final decision is expected by November when London must submit its bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

It wants to host some of the soccer tournament in Northern Ireland, but will require a commitment on the stadium before including the province in the bid.


WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI's Gareth Gordon:
"Twelve sites are competing to be the location for the stadium"


BBC NI's political correspondent Gareth Gordon:
"This is a move many people thought would never happen"



SEE ALSO:
NI stadium 'needs support'
24 May 04  |  Northern Ireland
Multi-sport stadium on horizon
18 May 04  |  Northern Ireland
Star helps in graffiti removal
30 Oct 03  |  Northern Ireland


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