The former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party has suggested Derry City FC re-enter the Irish League in Northern Ireland.
Fermanagh MLA Tom Elliott made the suggestion to Carál Ní Chuilín, Minister responsible for sports in Northern Ireland, at Stormont this week.
He asked the Minister whether money for “subregional stadium development for football” which could benefit Derry City FC “may be subject to a move away from the Brandywell so that Derry City can re-enter the Irish League in Northern Ireland?”
The Minister said that it was up to Derry City to decide.
The UUP man’s suggestion came during Minister’s question time at Stormont on Tuesday (February 3, 2015).
He asked Ní Chuilín: “Whether her department, or any of its arm’s-length bodies, has committed to provide any financial support for the refurbishment of League of Ireland club Derry City’s home ground?”
The Minister replied: “The Executive endorsed a proposal to provide funding of around £36 million for subregional stadium development for football as a priority area of spend.
“The subregional programme is a logical channel for any potential funding application, and the Brandywell stadium is one of a number of eligible venues across the North.
“DCAL has developed a strategic outline case for the subregional programme, and, following the Assembly’s approval of the 2015-16 Budget, the programme will proceed and commence its next stages.
“I am optimistic that the remaining funding will be approved in due course, allowing construction to commence in 2016-17.”
Mr Elliott followed his query up with the suggestion that Derry City play their matches away from the Brandywell and re-enter the Irish League.
“ I noted in recent press reports that Derry City are looking for money to expand and for their stadium,” he said.
Has the Minister any idea whether that money may be subject to a move away from the Brandywell so that Derry City can re-enter the Irish League in Northern Ireland?”
The Minister, a Sinn Féin MLA, gave the idea short shrift, saying: “It is up to Derry City where they play, who they play with and who they play for. It is not a matter for me.
“I did anticipate that many members would rise to their feet asking for support for their own club, as your party colleague did.
“I am glad, however, that the Member supports the application for investment for the Brandywell.”