The news that Ireland’s government cannot afford to contribute to the cost of Stadium Ireland has not ruffled the First Minister’s belief that the joint bid is as strong as ever. Jack McConnell called the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern after the announcement of the U-turn of government support. Ahern assured him that Ireland remained committed to the bid. The announcement on Monday from the Irish Government said that "in the current circumstances, it is not in a position to provide any Exchequer funding" for the stadium project. The preferred option now is to seek private sector funding for the stadium. We are talking about looking for an estimated £315m (500m euro).
Mr Ahern said: "What we have now agreed to do is to now look for expressions of interest from the private sector and try to move ahead with the development that way. Whether there will be expressions of interest we will have to wait to see, and I hope there will." While this is not exactly a encouraging statement, the Scottish Executive remain upbeat. A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said: "The Irish Government's position as a bid partner remains unchanged. They have confirmed that their two preferred sites for the stadiums required in Ireland are Stadium Ireland and Croke Park, and that they are taking action to deliver both for Euro 2008. We believe our joint bid is the strongest - we have more stadiums ready at this stage than any of our competitors. We look forward to next week's visit by the UEFA inspection team, where they will see our four world class stadiums (Hampden, Ibrox, Celtic Park and Murrayfield), the plans for our other potential grounds and hear about the other important aspects of our bid."
The news from over the water was not taken so calmly by other interested politicians. Scottish Tory sports spokesman Brian Monteith said the disappointing development was a cause for concern. Monteith said: "This is deeply disappointing news, especially on the eve of the inspection visits by UEFA. It is a matter for the Irish whether the stadium is built with public or private money, but it is important we get a clear commitment that they can deliver on their part of the bid."