Is The Fat Lady About To Sing?
As if it was not bad enough, there is now a fresh doubt hanging over Ireland's plans for a new Stadium Ireland which was to be part of the EURO2008 bid. This is not the kind of news you want to hear when you know thet the UEFA officials are visiting next week. There appears to be a new split in coalition government which throws doubt over the finance being made available for 'Berti's Bowl'. As with all coalitions, the junior partner (in this case the Progressive Democrats (PDs)) like to flex their muscles to see just how far they can push the senior partner (Fianna Fail) led by Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern. Of course, with so much money at stake it is no surprise that some further discussion is required. This is not the first time that PD leader and deputy prime minister Mary Harney has suggested alternative investments for the government's money. The row over the new stadium split the coalition Government in the run-up to the last election in May. Funnily enough, when the two parties were re-elected they formed a new administration and pledged to a build a new world class stadium.
The spending decisions of any government is always fraught with so many good cases for resources to be allocated. There have been recent public spending cutbacks in the Republic and the investment of millions of pounds in a new stadium could be considered imprudent. Harney said: "There is a tight budgetary situation - a very different budgetary situation from a number of months ago and we have to bear that in mind. We have to have appropriate priorities and, certainly for me at the moment, the priority would have to be the health service and a number of other areas like education and employment." She ended with some sort of teaser when she said: "In the past, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and I have worked very well together and we have resolved differences in the spirit of co-operation and partnership."
Needs a facelift
However, Ahern is determined to have his legacy in the shape of Stadium Ireland which is seen as vital for the success of the joint bid for EURO2008. He denied there was any, but admitted there was "a great deal to be discussed". He said: "We have to work our way through it, but we will". Harney is pinning her colours to the mast of the Gaelic Athletic Association's (GAA) Croke Park as the ideal venue to accompany a redeveloped Lansdowne Road to meet the Irish commitment to provide two venues for the championships. The 80,000-capacity Croke Park is not that easily accessible as the GAA are bitterly opposed to any sport other than Gaelic Games being played at the stadium - and re-affirmed its position in a vote at its last annual meeting. There could indeed be 'a great deal to be discussed'. Let's hope the discussions are completed before UEFA's plane lands in Dublin next week
Croke Park - off limits
Ger Harley (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Shane Knox (email@example.com)
Al McIntosh (Al@scottishfitba.net)
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