Casement Park: Government will make “significant contribution” to west Belfast stadium, says Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris reiterated his support during a visit to Belfast on Friday.

Rishi Sunak was accompanied by outgoing NI Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris on the final leg of his election campaign tour in Belfast.

The couple spoke after a visit to Artemis Technologies, near the famous Harland and Wolff shipyard.

“We have said we will make a significant contribution to Casement Park,” Mr Sunak said.

“Discussions are ongoing with the Department. In all cases, I will also say whether there will be a wonderful euro legacy in Northern Ireland.”

Heaton-Harris added: “When I said we would find the money for Casement Park, the costs were around £166m.

“Those costs have increased and we will make a significant contribution to Casement Park and NI will see a wonderful legacy from the Euros.”

It comes as Sunak this week announced an early general election for July 4.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chris Heaton-Harris arrive in Belfast on May 24, 2024 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

He is touring the four countries of the United Kingdom. Yesterday he was in England, Wales and Scotland.

The Prime Minister visited an advanced maritime manufacturing facility in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, where he spoke to apprentices and rode on a small zero-emission ship.

The boat has been manufactured by Artemis Technologies, a company that has received government funding to support its work.

Rishi Sunak, accompanied by Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, spoke to Artemis staff and took part in some of the manufacturing processes.

He will then return to England completing his two-day tour with a final campaign stop in the Midlands.

Sunak said he was “proud” of the work he and Heaton-Harris had done to restore devolved government in NI.

“I am here because I care deeply about the people of Northern Ireland and our Union. I am determined to ensure that the people of Northern Ireland, first and foremost, get the governance they deserve and feel part of our Union,” he said .

“We are very proud of what we have achieved here at NI and I am very optimistic about its future. Companies like Artemis, where we all are today, that is the future of NI, that is world-class innovation and manufacturing right here.

“If you want evidence of my willingness to take bold action, I think what I’ve been doing here in NI over the last 18 months is clear evidence of that. Getting Windsor done, getting the Executive up and running, which everyone when I got this job and they told Chris and me that it was not possible.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrives in Belfast on May 24, 2024 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

The Prime Minister denied he was captaining a sinking ship ahead of the July election and said his government’s plan was working.

“Inflation has returned to normal. “Energy bills (we got good news today) are falling, wages have risen faster than prices for ten months,” he stated.

“Earlier this year, our economy grew faster than almost all of our major competitors. While I know there is still more work to do and people are just beginning to see the benefits, it is clear that the plan is working.”

The UK and Irish governments have clashed in recent months over both the legality of the UK’s NI Legacy Act and the issue of immigration.

A legal challenge to the Legacy Act by the Irish government is underway, but Sunak said the relationship between the UK and Ireland was “constructive”.

“They will always be a close friend and partner of ours,” he said.

“I’m grateful for the support we’ve worked on together and that has made a difference in what’s happening here. Where there are differences, there will be differences and I’m not going to have any qualms about airing them.

Rishi Sunak visits Artemis Technologies during his visit to Belfast

“We have deeply disagreed with the decision on the Legacy case, but when we can work closely together, of course we will.”

Sunak also paid tribute to the “diligence and attention” of outgoing Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris, who he said had been a “privilege” to hold the role.

“I have had the privilege of being Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – a privilege to have been appointed and then reappointed to this role by the Prime Minister,” he said.

“A lot has happened in that time; the Prime Minister negotiated the Windsor Framework which resolved many of the problems with the NI Protocol. Together we made the Command Paper which put Stormont up and running, so we’ve done some decent things. “

Meanwhile, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer will be in Scotland to launch a campaign there with high hopes of making inroads into the SNP’s dominance on July 4.

Sir Keir, who will appear alongside Scottish Labor leader Anas Sarwar, will argue that the general election offers a chance to “finally turn the page on 14 years of Conservative and failed SNP rule and chart a new course for the country”.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey will be on the south coast of England, once again attacking Tory-held areas.

It will highlight a commitment that patients have the right to see a GP within seven days, and 8,000 more GPs will be recruited to meet the commitment that would be enshrined in the NHS Constitution in England.