Monday, 2 November 2009

Former Bel Tel ed unrepentant as White Elephant disappears into the distance.

“I wish I had listened to Malcolm's advice before pouring out so much undiluted advocacy for the Maze”, concedes Ed Curran. Seasoned local football journalist, Malcolm Brodie, had advised the former Belfast Telegraph editor that a multisports stadium on the former prison site was not viable.

So does Curran’s rueful admission represent the beginnings of an apology for submitting readers to a barrage of ill-advised, senseless propaganda? Unfortunately not. He remains implacably convinced that a flawless project was sunk by sectarian prejudice, rather than practical objections and pragmatism. Curran has got it so wrong, yet remains convinced that he is so right, that it is almost poignant.

None of the three sports governing bodies were half hearted in their commitments to a multisports stadium simply because it was to be shared, whatever the ex Tele supremo might insinuate. There was no significant undercurrent of sectarianism from supporters which caused the project to flounder either.

There were, however, a number of practical difficulties which one set of facilities entailed. Pitch size and stadium capacity were two prominent examples. The three sports have different needs. GAA requires greater capacity and a larger playing surface than Ulster Rugby or the international football team.

The principal reason that the Maze was such a bad idea, however, was not its multisport element. Quite simply, the location was entirely unsuitable for a modern stadium. Curran alludes to various consultancies, which were, he contends, a waste of money. It’s no wonder he objects to the findings of experts in stadium location and design. Consistently they emphasised that out of town sites were an outdated concept.

Modern stadia should be located close to city centres, where they contribute to the vibrancy of their urban environment and make use of the existing infrastructure which surrounds them. The collateral on the local economy hardly needs to be emphasised.

Instead of accepting that his arguments were, from the outset, badly flawed Curran trots out another series of ‘straw men’. He stresses that total costs quoted for a stadium at the Maze included building the new infrastructure which it required (why on earth would they not?). He makes a ludicrous appeal for integration.

“Never mind integrated education, why not try out an experiment in sharing the playing fields of Ulster?”

As regular readers will appreciate, I’m a strong advocate of ‘shared future’, but I recognise that integration which ignores practical considerations is not a sustainable model. By Curran’s logic, everything should be integrated into everything else. Drag racing through the local shopping centre? A crossfire of darts criss-crossing the bowling alley?

The Maze stadium was a bad, top down idea which engendered little enthusiasm within sports because it did not suit their needs. The Belfast Telegraph journalist would do well to admit this, rather than writing columns which would seem fanciful on a conspiracy website.

1 comment:

rutherford said...

"Drag racing through the local shopping centre? A crossfire of darts criss-crossing the bowling alley?"

Ssh. Somebody from the NIO might be reading