By Joe Leogue
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross has said he would ‘love’ to see the tribute match for the late Liam Miller to take place at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, and that he told the President of the GAA that he wants “an early solution” to the current impasse.
The sell-out match between the late Mr Miller’s former Manchester United, Celtic, and Ireland teammates is set to take place in September at the 7,000-seater Turners Cross.
However the GAA is considering a proposal from the tribute’s organisers to host the occasion at the 45,000-capacity Páirc Uí Chaoimh following a meeting at Croke Park on Tuesday.
That meeting came after the GAA had previously declared it was rule-bound from accommodating the fixture, the proceeds of which will go to Mr Miller’s widow, three children, and Marymount Hospice.
However, on Monday the Irish Examiner revealed that behind the scenes, both politicians and Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport officials had intervened and warned the GAA that its refusal to host the match may break the terms attached to €30m funding granted to Páirc Uí Chaoimh’s redevelopment.
Speaking to Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio One this morning, Mr Ross described the ongoing controversy as “a very, very unfortunate dispute”.
“I was in touch with John Horan, the President of the GAA, on Sunday and I made it absolutely clear that we wanted to see an early solution to this,” Mr Ross said.
“That is the basic principle that we have established, and it is imperative that all those organisations that get very, very large grants - and Páirc Uí Chaoimh as well - realises their obligations to the communities, not just to themselves.
“I would love to see it played in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. It’s perfectly clear that I want to see a settlement. I don’t want to reveal a private conversation but I want to make it perfectly clear now, publicly, that I would love to see it played at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. I think that would be the sensible solution.
“It would be a seriously good solution for the community, and it would set an example to others that if bodies are going to get large amounts of State funds, they can’t just use it for their own use, they have an obligation to the community as well,” he said.
Mr Ross declined to say whether his discussions on the matter included a threat that future funding may be affected by the GAA’s decision.
“I’m not going to issue any threats in this situation. What I am saying is that is a principle which is very dear to everyone involved in the sports policy and they should bear it in mind when making their decision,” he said.