Berti Ahern, the Irish Prime Minister, will be having one of his most important meetings of his political career today. He has been staking his reputation on the building Stadium Ireland to be his legacy from his period in office. The well documented decision that government money will not be available to support it's building has dented his brave front to date. When he meets them, Ahern will be under intense pressure to provide the EURO2008 delegation from UEFA with reassurance that the setback will not affect the joint bid with Scotland. The delegation arrived in Dublin today (Monday) and will have already visited the proposed site for the Stadium Ireland project (in Abbotstown), as well as Croke Park, the home of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). UEFA will also be deeply interested in the situation regarding the latter stadium. The GAA are sending strong signals that they have no intention of letting their ground be used for football (unless of the Gaelic variety).
The two decisions brought some quick thinking to bear on the new situation faced by the Irish government and the Football Association of Ireland. They plan to review funding allocated to the GAA to complete the refurbishment of Croke Park. The GAA consider this to be no more than blackmail to allow Croke Park to be used for EURO2008. However, a spokesman for Irish Finance Minister, Charlie McCreevy, said: "The undertaking made (to provide £12.5m per year for three years) to the GAA was in the context of the new stadium being built. Clearly, the context has changed. If the GAA wants to make a case as to why state funding should continue, the minister would be happy to discuss it with them".
GAA holding out
I understand that Stadium Ireland may not be a dead issue just yet. The Irish Government advertised for private investors in the project last Friday. A five-strong consortium of Irish businessman have already expressed an interest in getting involved in the ambitious project. The only name we have heard for sure at the moment is music promoter Denis Desmond. Rumours of the names of the others included is racehorse breeder John Magnier.