Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

First ministers could dig deep for a deal to resurrect Maze peace centre

First ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness with Long Kesh Development Corporation chairman Terence Brannigan  (centre) at the launch of the Maze prison peace centre project
First ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness with Long Kesh Development Corporation chairman Terence Brannigan (centre) at the launch of the Maze prison peace centre project

Ministers at this afternoon's Executive meeting are to discuss the transfer of funds from the ill-fated A5 but the elephant in the room will be the collapsed peace centre at the former Maze prison.

There are rumours of behind the scenes discussions involving DUP and Sinn Fein officials with First Minister Peter Robinson talking up talking and his deputy Martin McGuinness in "problem solving" mode.

On the Hill can reveal evidence of confusion over the conflict resolution centre within the First Minister and Deputy First Minister's Office even before the DUP's summer U-turn – when officials were unclear over a start date for construction of the now-abandoned building.

Mike Nesbitt, OFMDFM committee chair, told On The Hill it was further proof of dysfunction at the heart of Stormont.

The UUP leader said: "OFMDFM have a shocking record when it comes to dealing properly with the committee. They fail to deliver papers and do not turn up for meetings.

"It has descended into a Brian Rix farce and is utterly disrespectful of the committee.

"It also leaves me, as chairman, in the position that I do not have confidence in the officials that ministers send us."

Mr McGuinness clearly told the committee in June that the first bricks of the centre would be laid by the end of this year. A week later, senior official Tim Losty said he believed the start date of October 2013 was "an error" and it should be 2014.

By which time, of course, Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness may have revived the project.

On The Hill sent questions to the OFMDFM press office but has yet to receive a reply.

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