Hargey says football stadium funding scheme cannot go ahead without executive

A funding package to upgrade football stadiums in Northern Ireland cannot be advanced without an executive, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has told MPs.

In 2015, the executive allocated £36m to the sub-regional scheme for local football.

During Ministerial Question Time, Ms Hargey said the scheme had to be approved by the executive, and she was now unable to do so.

I had planned for this to be done before the end of the term, but because some have walked away, it can’t be done now

Deirdre Hargey

Northern Ireland is without an active executive after the DUP resigned as Prime Minister as part of the party’s protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

But the DUP said the plan had been with the minister for two years and should have been brought forward before now.

Ms Hargey told MPs she ‘shared the frustrations’ expressed by members that the funding scheme had not yet been implemented following its initial approval.

She added: “I will not be able to move this program forward as it is at the moment because the agreement has always been that I must submit any proposal to the executive for approval and also approve the program and the funding.

“Without an executive, this cannot be done.

“I had wanted this to be done before the end of the mandate, but because some have walked away, it cannot be done now.”

DUP MP Stephen Dunne said local football clubs had been left in ‘limbo’ (Liam McBurney/PA)

(PA wire)

DUP MP Stephen Dunne said the minister’s response was an ‘insult’ to clubs awaiting funding.

He added: “They were kept in limbo because of the minister’s dithering and delays.

“Even by her own admission, she had ample time to present proposals to the executive. It is a failure entirely of her own fault.

SDLP MP Mark Durkan said: ‘The DUP’s self-serving decision to dissolve the Assembly has undoubtedly put key legislation and initiatives at risk, but I and my SDLP colleagues have been campaigning for years for this program to move forward and now, just before the end of the current mandate, we are receiving confirmation that it will not go ahead.

“Sinn Fein told us over five years ago that this funding was secured and successive community ministers have failed to provide it, much to the disappointment of local teams and their supporters.”

UUP MP Andy Allen said: ‘There have been repeated false dawns for the programme, the latest being delivered under the guise of the collapsed executive.

“However, football clubs and supporters in Northern Ireland have been let down by successive ministers.

He said local football “badly needs” the funding to upgrade facilities, adding: “Northern Ireland deserves better, and local football clubs and supporters certainly deserve better than the repeated failure to deliver. “

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