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Save Tolka Park group vow to step up campaign amid ‘growing support’


Shelbourne board member Finian McGrath said his comments on the future of Tolka Park were made in a "personal capacity"

Shelbourne board member Finian McGrath said his comments on the future of Tolka Park were made in a "personal capacity"

Shelbourne board member Finian McGrath said his comments on the future of Tolka Park were made in a "personal capacity"

A campaign group has claimed comments made by a board member of Shelbourne Football Club reflect growing support for the retention of Tolka Park as a sports facility.

Members of Save Tolka Park welcomed the views expressed “in a personal capacity” by former minister Finian McGrath, who was appointed Public Affairs and Inclusion Officer by the Drumcondra-based club last November.

Fears remain that the Richmond Road grounds could be rezoned for housing and sold by Dublin City Council to defray some of the €35m costs of the redevelopment of Dalymount Park, to be shared by Shelbourne FC and Bohemian FC.

The Dalymount project has only received around €1m in Government funding and there are ongoing concerns about the new stadium’s capacity to cater for all Women’s National League (WNL) games – believed to be a potential dealbreaker for Shelbourne.

In an email to Dublin city councillors, Mr McGrath called for their support when the issue of Tolka Park comes before them again.

“The Save Tolka Park campaign has shown this view extends beyond our club and has drawn broad support locally and nationally,” he said. “Dublin needs more sports amenities, not less.

“The retention of Tolka Park makes sense. We are all working on a different solution. Keep an eye on this matter.”

A spokesperson for Shelbourne FC said the email contained “the personal opinions of the sender” and was not written on behalf of the club.

In a later email to councillors, Mr McGrath confirmed he had expressed a personal opinion and apologised for any confusion.

However, Save Tolka Park believe Mr McGrath’s comments reflect growing support within senior club circles for their campaign.

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Last year, the group released its own €13.5m proposal for the redevelopment of the grounds as a sporting and community amenity.

A spokesperson for the group said: “Until Dublin City Council management formally withdraw their plans to rezone and sell Tolka Park, our campaign will continue.

“The granting by the council of a long-term leasehold to Shelbourne FC or a community entity, contingent on the stadium continuing in sporting and community use, would guarantee its future.”

Last year, Dublin city councillors passed a motion agreeing the Dalymount project should not be connected to, or dependent on, the sale of Tolka Park.

As a result, it’s understood there is a growing view within Shelbourne FC that supporting the Save Tolka Park campaign is not incompatible with the club's backing for the Dalymount project.

The councillors’ motion also called for women’s football facilities to be “properly safeguarded” as part of any redevelopment of Tolka Park or Dalymount.

Shelbourne FC recently told Independent.ie it would be “impossible” for it to consider involvement in the new Dalymount Park stadium project without “full and equal access” for its women’s senior team.

Dublin City Council said the business case for the redevelopment of Dalymount Park is to have two League of Ireland clubs as anchor tenants.

“As far as Dublin City Council understands, Bohemian FC and Shelbourne FC continue to be fully supportive of the redeveloped Dalymount Park,” a spokesperson said.

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