Ulster Unionist Sports spokesperson Leslie Cree MLA has expressed his concern at claims that a safety adviser was put under pressure to approve plans for the new Casement Park and to disregard important safety concerns.
Mr Cree said:
“The DCAL committee today heard claims from Paul Scott of the Safety Technical Group that he had been expressing concern about safety aspects of the Casement Park design for two years but was put under such significant pressure to approve the scheme that he raised a complaint of bullying and harassment against DCAL officials.
“Safety at sports grounds is of paramount importance. There have been a number of stadium tragedies in the past few decades, including at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow in 1971, the Bradford Fire at Valley Parade in 1985 and the Hillsborough disaster in Sheffield in 1989. As a result of these, stadium design has quite rightly been massively upgraded and spectator safety considerations are to the fore in any new stadium development.
“When one looks at the geography of Casement Park, it is clear that the existing stadium is hemmed in by the streets that surround both sides and the motorway at one end. The main access and egress is onto the Andersonstown Road.
“If 38,000 spectators were to be accommodated at a sporting event in the redeveloped stadium it is obviously imperative that they can be evacuated safely and speedily in the event of an incident. What would happen if such an incident occurred either on the Andersonstown Road or within the stadium itself at that end?
“If evacuation routes are insufficient then quite clearly the only plans which can be approved are for a smaller capacity. It appears that Mr Scott sought to highlight these concerns, but that certain vested interests were in such a rush to get the redeveloped stadium built, they tried to silence him.
“The Ulster Unionist Party is in no doubt that safety cannot be compromised and we will be watching very closely to ensure that any future plans involving Casement Park comply fully with health and safety considerations.”