Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has dismissed suggestions that government funding for the redevelopment of Croke Park was ever linked to the GAA’s refusal to amend Rule 42 in 2001.
In an episode of Scannal to be broadcast on RTÉ One at 8pm this evening which deals with Ahern’s planned national sports stadium — the so-called ‘Bertie Bowl — some contributors speculate whether the GAA’s refusal to allow rugby and soccer to be played in Croke Park was a boost to Ahern’s plans for a national stadium.
However, Ahern tells interviewer Garry Mac Donncha: “The factual position is this: Croke Park had got the money all the way along, and was going to get the money all the way along, so it didn’t matter what happened with the Rule — we were going to pay.
“Some people criticised us for that, because they said ‘oh, why should you give Croke Park money’. The people anti the GAA... would take that view.
“That issue was that those who were anti the GAA, and wanted to politicise it, and who wanted to say ‘you shouldn’t give them a penny more of taxpayer’s money unless they change this rule’ — they’re people who do not understand the DNA of the GAA.”
The programme also deals with the short-lived proposal to build a bespoke soccer stadium in Saggart, Dublin, to be called Eircom Park.
This project was championed by then FAI chief executive, Bernard O’Byrne, but, as the programme points out, in 2001 the FAI dropped the plan for Eircom Park amid some controversy.
For instance, a transcript surfaced in which then Minister for Sport, Jim McDaid, allegedly offered £11m to the FAI, a sum seen as an inducement to end the consideration of Eircom Park as an option in favour of Ahern’s proposed stadium.