Mr Hazzard said: “I want to commend Down GAA, and especially those officials who I know have been working tirelessly behind the scenes for many months on the potential to develop a world-class Gaelic Games complex at Ballykinlar.
Wells Calls For Long Term Investment For Ballykinlar Site
Speaking following the Down GAA announcement, South Down DUP MLA Jim Wells said: “The announcement that the GAA are in negotiations to lease part of the former Ballylinar Army Base for a centre of excellence has come as a surprise, but more significant long term investment is required for this strategic site.
“The relationship between the security forces and the GAA has been an uneasy one in the past and many will be surprised that Ballykinlar has been selected for this facility.
“Down GAA have announced that they are seeking to lease part of the site to build the centre. I assume that this will be similar to the facility recently built near Dungiven in County Londonderry.
“The number of new jobs which will be created by this proposal will be small, and I will be seeking assurances that its construction will not preclude the much larger investment the site needs.
“The removal of a permanent Army battalion from Ballykinlar led to the loss or transfer of 200 jobs from Down District. The vacant site is an ideal location for major investment to provide sustainable long term employment for this rural area.
“I have always maintained that Ballykinlar was an ideal site for a new Police College following the shelving of the Cookstown proposal. Many of the facilities on the site were modernised just before its closure was announced, and could be readily adapted for the needs of the PSNI.
“This or a similar proposal would bring huge economic benefit to Down District”.