At the beginning of September 2004, a formal legal agreement to redevelop the stadium at Lansdowne Road was signed between the Government, the Irish Rugby Football Union, the Football Association of Ireland, and the Lansdowne Road Stadium Development Company, the special purpose company which has been established to deliver the project. A project director has been appointed to manage the project and a steering group, which is chaired by the Secretary General of my Department, has been meeting regularly over the past six months to oversee delivery of the project. At this stage, the primary focus of the steering group is on ensuring all the legal, financial, planning and procurement requirements are met in an efficient and timely manner so that actual construction work can get under way by the target date of July 2006.
The process of transforming the existing well-loved but outmoded stadium into a state of the art facility which will satisfy aspirations of both the IRFU and FAI and, indeed, the sports-going public will at some point necessitate the closure of the stadium for about two and a half years. The current time-line for the project envisages that the closure period will run from mid-2006 to the end of 2008. I am aware from my contacts with both associations that they are giving some thought to their options for staging major home rugby and soccer fixtures when Lansdowne Road is temporarily out of commission. Pragmatic contingency planning clearly would require consideration of possible staging of some of these fixtures outside of this jurisdiction. It is my wish, however, that a way can be found to avoid this contingency. I imagine this aspiration is widely shared. If I can assist in any way to facilitate dialogue on this issue while respecting the autonomy of the parties involved I should be happy to do so.