Thursday, 29 January 2009
Sharing wasn't the problem. The Maze stadium was a bad proposal.
From the perspective of a fan of the Northern Ireland football team, I was opposed to the Maze stadium proposals for purely apolitical reasons. The plans would simply have delivered the wrong facility in the wrong place
Naturally, as a unionist, I was also deeply unenthused by the prospect of a terrorist museum being erected / preserved at the Maze site. However my apprehension in that regard had little to do with concerns about the suitability of the stadium.
The act of building a sports’ venue at the Maze would not have metamorphosised the adjacent hospital into some manner of IRA shrine by some indelible law of nature. Nor will scrapping plans for the stadium necessarily involve shelving the ‘peace and reconciliation centre’ (ho hum), as is becoming increasingly apparent.
I can also say with absolute certainty that the vast majority of Northern Ireland supporters have no difficulty sharing a stadium with the GAA (in principle). There may be reservations as regards design implications, but that is an entirely different issue and does not sustain the outrageous slurs which Feeney and others have insisted on making.
If there were to be a stadium, suitable to the needs of the football team in terms of facilities, venue and capacity, most Northern Ireland supporters wouldn’t care less if Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness booked it every other weekend for bouts of homoerotic mud wrestling, as long as it was available and in good condition when international fixtures came around.
Of course the very notion that a multi sports’ venue would increase interaction between communities is questionable. Providing facilities where no-one feels uncomfortable is desirable. But the three sports which signed up to the Maze project would not have used it at the same time!
Any decent sized shopping centre would do more to ‘bring people together’, or a city centre cinema. Requiring fans to travel to a god-forsaken former prison in the middle of nowhere in order to watch their respective sports was not a good plan to heal society in Northern Ireland. Neither is scrapping it a major setback.
So if, as reports suggest, Gregory Campbell intends to scrap plans for a stadium at the Maze, his action is justifiable on purely practical grounds. It was a bad design and it was a bad site.
It is a decision to applaud, but it shouldn’t necessarily sound the death knell of either a new stadium or the notion of sharing it between two or more sports. An innovative proposal, taking into account modern notions on stadia location and answering to the needs of the IFA, IRFU and GAA is surely not beyond the ken of our best architects.
It’s just a pity that so much time has been wasted considering options at the Maze.