Mayor Ronnie Crawford has conceded that Culture, Arts and
Leisure Minister, Gregory Campbell looks set to blow the final
whistle on plans for a National Stadium at the Maze.
Councillor Crawford believes the Minister
will give plans for a state-of-the-art, 42,500 seater stadium
for football, rugby and gaelic the red card in a matter of
Instead, it is thought that Windsor Park will
be extended to a capacity of between 20-22,000, with Linfield
foregoing the current contract they have with the IFA, while
rugby and Gaelic will both receive subsidies for their current
homes at Ravenhill and Casement Park.
Mr Crawford said: "It is my understanding
Gregory Campbell will announce within the next month a decision
to abandon a National Stadium for Northern Ireland.
"It is most likely Windsor Park will be
extended in return for Linfield FC annulling the existing
contract with the IFA which garners them a percentage of gate
receipts and television fees from international matches played
there. This has created a financial imbalance whilst clubs like
our own Lisburn Distillery and others have to struggle to
Mr Crawford said his fears were confirmed
after the Minister hosted a reception to celebrate Linfield's
league achievements at Stormont last week.
"I find it quite interesting that Linfield
proposed to extend Windsor Park to 22,000 and then Gregory
Campbell, at a reception held for Linfield, announced that
within five or six weeks a decision on the Maze would be made"
he said. "If the announcement had been detrimental to Linfield I
don't think he would choose a reception for Linfield to say
Mr Crawford, who claimed the latest information
came from a 'very high' source continued, "It is most
regrettable that Mr. Campbell seems likely to perpetuate the
existing apartheid in local sports. The National Stadium would
have been a statement of confidence in a new shared future for
Northern Ireland. He may well be accused of capitulating to Jim
Allister and the TUV who have been making great political
capital out of their irrational attitude to the Maze.
"Ulster Unionists will be bitterly
disappointed, but not surprised, if the National Stadium is
dumped. Councillor Basil McCrea predicted that this decision was
already taken by the DUP during a retreat to Lisbon some time
ago and we believe he may well be vindicated on this issue,
despite vehement denials by the DUP at the time.
"However, I would like to put on public
record my thanks to Edwin Poots (DUP assembly member and former
minister) for the valiant efforts he made to secure this
investment for Lisburn. Those efforts may well have cost him his
ministerial post, but he can hold his head high as he chose to
put the interests of this constituency before career advantage
and I think voters here will not forget that."